Lester Bower Awaits Wednesday Execution

67-year-old has spent 31 years on death row

Lester Bower Awaits Wednesday Execution

Lester Bower has spent 31 years on death row for the 1983 murder of four men in a Grayson County airplane hangar. He’s faced eight different execution dates, the most recent being tomorrow, June 3. Lester’s attorneys filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court on May 29. Justices have until 6pm tomorrow to make a final ruling.

Should the high court deny Bower’s petition, it will greenlight the execution of a man sent to death row for a crime people believe he did not actually commit. Bower was arrested in connection with the Oct. 8, 1983, murders of Bob Tate, Ronald Mayes (a former police officer), Philip Good (a former sheriff's deputy), and Jerry Mac Brown. At the time, the murders were chalked up as a business deal gone wrong: Bower, who lived in Arlington, had gone to the hangar in Sherman, 60 miles north of Dallas, to purchase an ultralight airplane from Tate. Tate and the other three men at the hangar that afternoon were found dead after Bower left.

FBI agents later found information indicating that Good (who facilitated the sale) and Bower had engaged in a series of phone calls to set up the sale. When the agents showed up at Bower’s home to question him, he denied being at the hangar, but a search uncovered pieces of the airplane in Bower's garage. During a later investigation at Bower’s home, they found other pieces of evidence, and arrested him Jan. 20, 1984. He was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death on April 24, 1984.

Six years later, a woman publicly identified only as "Pearl" read an article in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram about Bower and went to get in touch with his attorneys. Her boyfriend, she believed and later testified, was actually the one responsible for the murders. He and some friends had gotten mixed up in a bad drug deal, she said. But the state had already convicted Bower of the murders, and pushed the sentence through.

For the past 25 years Bower’s attorneys have attempted to argue that their client received painfully inept counsel during his trial and that state prosecutors have failed to comply with obligations to turn over any exculpatory evidence. Moreover, his attorneys have argued, Bower’s 30-plus years on death row have functioned as their own form of cruel and unusual punishment, and that he should be sparred lethal injection because of it. The state has countered by saying “Bower has consistently litigated his case without stop over the last thirty years. Any delay is purely of his own making.”

Still, the numbers are somewhat daunting. At 67, Bower’s set to be the oldest inmate executed within the state since it restored capital punishment 39 years ago, and will be the longest-tenured inmate executed, assuming tomorrow's scheduled execution takes place. Only nine Texans – all still awaiting execution – have been on death row longer.

The Supreme Court issued a stay of Bower’s execution in February thanks to a Feb. 5 appeal by his attorneys, but in March declined to take up the case. Should they again decline Bower, he’ll be the eight Texan executed this year and the 526th since the state’s reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More by Chase Hoffberger
Revisiting the Railroad Killer
Revisiting the Railroad Killer
Local journo Alex Hannaford’s Dead Man Talking podcast investigates the case against a man on death row

Nov. 16, 2018

EMS Union Set for Leadership Contest
EMS Union Set for Leadership Contest
Association to cast ballot between incumbent Tony Marquardt or challenger Selena Xie

Nov. 16, 2018


Lester Bower, Death Watch

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle