As 2015 draws to a close Texas Moratorium Network looks back on the top Texas death penalty news stories of the year. Each day, we will update the list with another Texas death penalty news story that broke in 2015. We will continue to post our list of ten top Texas death penalty news stories each day until we reach number one. Here is number 4 on the list.
4) Lester Bower, who had a strong case of innocence, was executed on June 8, 2015 after 31 years on Texas death row. He spent more time on death row than any other person executed in Texas. Bower maintained his innocence to the end. According to Jordan Smith of The Intercept, “serious questions remained about the state’s investigation and prosecution of Bower. Indeed, in 1989, some five years after Bower was sentenced to death, the conviction began to unravel. Documents challenging the state’s case surfaced — thanks to the dogged work of Bower’s pro bono attorney team — and a woman came forward to say that she knew who killed the four men, and that it wasn’t Bower. She has maintained her story — corroborated by others — for nearly 26 years. (For more background and recent revelations, read The Intercept’s earlier story on the case.)” The potential for an innocent person to be executed is far from remote — and not just in Texas.
Also see, “Did Texas Execute an Innocent Lester Bower?” in Politico. The judge who heard the new evidence said in 2012, “…the new evidence produced by the defendant could conceivably have produced a different result at trial,”, but he said it did not warrant a new trial, because “…it does not prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is actually innocent”. The ruling illustrated the dilemma for defendants. “He [Judge Fallon] points out in pretty clear terms that this guy probably would have been found not guilty had this evidence been available at trial,” Maurice Possley said. “But now, all these years later, he can’t meet the new standard, which is actual innocence. That was not the standard at trial. Then it was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Bower joins a disturbingly long list of people executed by Texas who may have been innocent, including Todd Willingham, Carlos DeLuna, Ruben Cantu, David Wayne Spence, Shaka Sankofa (born Gary Lee Graham), as well as others (DPIC list).
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