Texas May Have Executed an Innocent Man

Witnesses say Lester Bower did not commit the crime
By Brownie Marie,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 15, 2015 2:35 PM CDT
Texas May Have Executed an Innocent Man
In this Jan. 7, 2015, file photo, Texas death row inmate Lester Bower is photographed in an interview cage at the visiting area of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Polunsky Unit.   (AP Photo/Michael Graczyk, File)

Earlier this month, Texas executed Lester Bower for the 1983 murders of four men in an airplane hangar. Questions of his guilt lingered—and Bower maintained his innocence—until the end, and a Politico exposé suggests that he may have been telling the truth. Journalist Tim Madigan followed Bower’s case for several years, and interviewed him twice behind bars. Bower explained he was at an airplane hangar buying an ultralight aircraft the day the murders occurred, but told his wife he was going bow hunting so she wouldn't find out. When four bodies were discovered in the same hangar, he lied to police about his whereabouts, and a phone call he made to one of the victims was circumstantial but suspicious. He was sentenced to die in 1989, but was saved when a witness came forward.

A woman, identified only as "Witness Number One," said that her then-boyfriend admitted to the killings, and she overheard one of his alleged accomplices joking about the murders. Bower’s attorneys presented the witness, and three corroborating parties, to Judge James Fallon in 2012, but lacked DNA evidence or a confession from one of the accused. Fallon did not find evidence of innocence or faulty legal representation, and Bower was put to death earlier this month at the age of 67. Not everyone is convinced that the execution was a mistake, however. "I feel strongly that Lester Bower is the man, the killer," former chief investigator Jim Blanton said, per the Mississippi Innocence Project. "He’s right where he should be." (More death penalty stories.)

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