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February 5, 2015

More than three decades after crime, SCOTUS decides it still needs to stay Texas mass murderer execution

As reported in this AP piece (with my emphasis added), a "Texas inmate set to be executed next week for fatally shooting four men at an airplane hangar more than 30 years ago won a reprieve Thursday from the U.S. Supreme Court."  Here are the details:

Lester Bower Jr., 67, among the longest-serving Texas death row inmates, had been scheduled for lethal injection Tuesday. The justices gave no reason for the reprieve, saying only that it would be lifted automatically if they deny an appeal or act on it.

Bower was convicted in the October 1983 deaths at a Grayson County ranch about 60 miles north of Dallas. Authorities found parts from a small ultralight airplane at the hangar at his home in Arlington, a Dallas suburb. Prosecutors also tied unusual Italian-made .22-caliber bullets used in the slayings to similar ammunition purchased by Bower, a federally licensed gun dealer.

In their appeal to the high court, Bower's lawyers said jurors who decided on his death sentence had faulty instructions that didn't allow them to consider mitigating circumstances that he had no criminal record, was a married father of two, college educated and employed as a chemical salesman.

Since his 1984 trial, court rulings have refined instructions to Texas capital murder trial juries to account for mitigating circumstances. Several condemned inmates from that era - but not Bower - have received new court-ordered punishment trials. Bower's attorneys also contended that prosecutors misstated the rarity of the fatal bullets, and that his long time on death row and numerous rescheduled execution dates amount to unconstitutional suffering.

State attorneys argued that courts have rejected appeals about the jury instructions, that information about the bullets was available at the time of his trial and that Bower's lawyers' persistent appeals account for the lengthy case. "Any delay is purely of his own making," Stephen Hoffman, an assistant Texas attorney general, told the justices in a filing this week....

Those killed were building contractor Bob Tate, 51; Grayson County Sheriff's Deputy Philip Good, 29; Jerry Brown, 52, an interior designer; and Ronald Mayes, 39, a former Sherman police officer. Good's wife, Marlene Bushard, said the delay was "very frustrating since we were so close."

"I am hoping once this is done he will be out of options, we can get another death warrant and end this," she said in an email.

As this timeline of products reveals, over the last 30 years Apple has been able to go from its Apple IIe personal computer to a modern (multi-generation) iPhone and iPad and iMac, and the latest Apple machines now put more computing power into our hands than NASA had at its disposal in the early 1980s.  Meanwhile during this same period, our legal system has been unable to conclusively determine whether a Texas mass murderer was lawfully sentenced to death. Hmmm.

February 5, 2015 at 04:38 PM | Permalink


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The delay argument is stupid. I'm sorry. The remedy for that would be to deny a stay, not grant one. Delaying more does not remedy a delay.

I don't know the details of the other arguments, but I hope the stay is to consider if those have merit. If others similar situated have received new sentencing hearings to make sure a jury is more correctly informed, I think it's appropriate he should have that benefit too, but I can't buy this delay argument.

Posted by: Erik M | Feb 5, 2015 7:33:46 PM

This is not a failure, but a great success, funding the college education of the children of many generations of attorneys. May it continue into perpetuity or the natural death of the poor sap on death row.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 5, 2015 8:28:21 PM

This is a BS stay. He's had his habeas. I wouldnt have a problem if Texas executed in the face of the stay.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 5, 2015 10:48:18 PM

The third argument is: "Whether executing a defendant who has already served more than 30 years on death row while exercising his legal rights in a non-abusive manner serves any penological purpose and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments." If you think the argument -- which Stevens and Breyer specifically has raised in the past -- is stupid on the merits is fine. But, "the remedy" is not just to end the delay if you do. The problem is not simply the delay at this point.

The other two arguments are still there either way. As to the length of time, a partial summary of events can be found here -- http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/14-292-op-below.pdf -- unclear what happened in the 1990s. The courts have in effect put his case on the backburner. His execution at this point would be "unusual" and in some ways "cruel" as well. http://www.cocklelegalbriefs.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/30084-pdf-Allen.pdf

Posted by: Joe | Feb 6, 2015 12:25:25 AM

Without detracting from Fed's credibility, I support that idea.

Just kill the condemned, and do so by any means of choice by the state. Shoot him, hang him, behead him with a rusty knife. No one cares. End the silliness of the rent seeking lawyer on the federal appellate bench. They are thieves of the tax fisc. Judicial review is an act of treason and insurrection against the constitution.

If the federal tyrant sends his FBI thugs to arrest any state official, have state troopers taser them, then baton them on the ground. Break their knees. To deter. If their stupid suits get torn up, let them send a bill.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 6, 2015 11:06:57 PM

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