Accused of shooting four men dead inside an aircraft hangar near Dallas, Lester Bower has been on death row for 35 years for mass murder. The unlikely story of 67-year-old Bower has been one of near legend as his time in prison reaches the second longest tenure of any prisoner in Texas, broken up by multiple appeals and six stays preventing the state from taking his life.
Lester Bower was convicted of the heinous crime in 1984. 35 years old and a college-educated, married father of two, Bower made a sufficient living working as a chemical salesman. He was an unassuming, average man with no prior criminal record. However he has spent the past three decades on death row, adamantly maintaining his innocence and fighting for the freedom and life taken away from him following his trial. Launching multiple appeals, each of which resulting in a stay on his execution, has kept Bower alive as the state of Texas have attempted to take his life on six separate occasions.
"Once you have been through the dates three or four times, once you have been to seven… you get down to the captain's office to go through the last protocols, ask for your witnesses and stuff like that – we're all on a first name basis now."Once again, however, the state has scheduled Lester's imminent execution to take place on June 3 by lethal injection. Lawyers for the state of Texas assert that Lester Bower is guilty of fatally shooting the four men, stating that there is no longer any compelling legal reason to delay the execution any further. Prosecutors believe the crime to be related to the theft of a $4,000 ultra-light aeroplane, accusing Bower of murdering the four men in order to escape with the expensive aircraft.
While very little incriminating evidence was found to place Lester at the scene, investigators claim parts of the aircraft were later found at Bower's residence as well as records showing that Bower made phone calls to one of the victims ahead of the crime. No fingerprints were found to connect Lester to the hangar, nor was the murder weapon ever recovered.
As his time approaches, Lester has little new to say regarding the impending execution. "I'm not overly earth-shaken about what's going on," he told the Guardian. In further interviews Bower spoke about his innocence and explained how he didn't feel bitter or angry towards those responsible for his prosecution. "I'm not upset with the prosecutors or the jury or the judge," he told Fort Worth Star-Telegram,
"They did the best job they could do with the information they had at the time. But now there would be a lot of other evidence to consider, and I wish they would have the chance."Unfortunately, due to his extended stay on death row, Lester's appeals have become entangled in litigation -- putting any further attempts to thwart his execution at risk of dismissal. While the three decades Bower has spent in the harsh conditions of death row could prove to work in his favor, as he claims the treatment violates his 8th amendment rights, the changes in law during his stay leaves his defense vulnerable to technicalities.
If the prosecution succeeds in its proceedings, Lester Bower's lethal injection will constitute the most high-profile execution since that of repentant cop-killer Manuel Garza, Jr.
"I've got the best attorneys in the world," Bower explained. "Even the best attorneys in the world can be thwarted by the system … the deck is always stacked against you."
[Image credit: Michael Graczyk]