On Wednesday, the state of Texas plans to do something it has been trying to do for decades: Execute Lester Bower.
Bower, 67, has spent nearly half of his life on death row. He was convicted of shooting and killing a man while attempting to steal an ultralight plane that the man was trying to sell in 1983, and then fatally shooting three other men when they unexpectedly showed up at the aircraft hangar, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
His attorneys argue that Bower was convicted due to circumstantial evidence, and that since his trial, new evidence has emerged undermining the prosecution that sent Bower to death row.
“This is a case in which there is a significant lingering doubt regarding guilt or innocence,” his attorneys argued in a filing last week.
They have also pointed to other arguments that they hope will keep Bower from the execution chamber, including an issue involving his sentencing. Bower’s execution had been scheduled for Feb. 10, but the week before, the Supreme Court granted his request for a stay while it considered whether to hear his case. In March, the justices decided against hearing the appeal and lifted the stay.
After the court said it would not hear the case, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in a dissent that the court should hear it because of the sentencing issue. When Bower was convicted, the jury helping decide his sentence did not consider potentially mitigating evidence, something the Supreme Court later said was unconstitutional. As a result, Beyer says this should allow for a new sentencing hearing for Bower.
“I recognize that we do not often intervene only to correct a case-specific legal error,” Breyer wrote in the dissent, which was joined by two other justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. “But the error here is glaring, and its consequence may well be death.”
Bower’s attorneys have also argued that his long stint on death row should help him avoid lethal injection. The average death row inmate in Texas spends a decade there, while death row inmates nationwide have spent an average of 14 years under their sentences.
Source: Washington Post, Mark Berman, June 2, 2015
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