The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday rejected the latest appeal of death row inmate Lester Bower, a devastating blow to the Arlington man’s 30-year attempt to avoid execution.
Bower, 66, was convicted of killing four men in a Grayson County airplane hangar in 1983. He is one of the longest-serving prisoner on Texas’ Death Row.
For more than two decades, Bower’s lawyers have argued his innocence, citing the testimony of a series of witnesses who have come forward to implicate others.
In December, Judge James Fallon of Grayson County’s 15th District Court rejected the latest defense request for a new trial. That decision was affirmed by the Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday.
“What happens next is that we move forward,” Grayson County District Attorney Joe Brown said Wednesday. “The case has been litigated numerous times in numerous courts, federal and state, and all the issues have been decided. But we fully expect that there will be more delaying tactics.”
Fallon could set a new execution date in the next few weeks. Barring further appeals or legal developments, Bower could face lethal injection in the next few months.
One of Bowers’ lawyers, James Glenn, declined to comment Wednesday on the court’s decision.
Shari Bower, his wife, said she learned of the latest legal setback on the website of a television station.
“I’m completely in the dark. I don’t know what happens next,” she said. “Of course we’re devastated.”
Bower, a chemical salesman and hobbyist, was living in Arlington with his wife and two daughters when he was arrested in connection with the killings in Grayson County, north of Dallas.
He was connected to one of the victims through telephone records, but Bower repeatedly denied visiting the hangar to buy an ultralight aircraft the day of the killings. Parts of the aircraft were later found in his home.
In his trial, prosecutors also alleged that Bower owned a weapon and exotic ammunition similar to what was used in the fatal shootings.
Over the years, defense lawyers have argued that the original testimony was overstated or incorrect. The basis for their appeals, however, has been the testimony of a series of witnesses who have come forward.
The first, a woman, contacted lawyers five years after Bower’s conviction, eventually testifying that her boyfriend spoke of participating in the killings during a drug deal gone bad. At least three other men were implicated.
Other witnesses came forward to point fingers at the same gang of drug dealers, said to be operating in southern Oklahoma at the time of the killings.
In each instance, prosecutors attacked the new testimony as hearsay while pointing out inconsistencies, and the witnesses’ histories of heavy drug use.
“The essential point of all the witnesses’ statements has remained unchanged,” Glenn said in 2012. “The four men were involved in these murders and Les was not. We don’t believe, under a fair assessment of the evidence as it exists today, that a conviction would be possible.”
In his 2012 ruling, Fallon said that while the new evidence “could conceivably have produced a different result at trial, it does not prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is actually innocent.”