Texas has just executed a man who maintained his innocence for more than 30 years.
Lester Leroy Bower, 67, was convicted of shooting and killing four men in an airplane hangar in 1983. He is the oldest person to face capital punishment in Texas since the state reinstated capital punishment in the '70s.
But Bower pointed to four witnesses whose testimony indicated that a gang of southern Oklahoma drug dealers carried out the slayings after a deal went bad, according to the Fort Worth Star Telegram's Tim Madigan.
“I did not,” Bower told Madigan when asked if he committed the crimes. “What’s more, I feel we have had a reasonable number of people come forward with credible stories to say I did not commit these murders.”
Madigan writes that several years following Bower's initial conviction, a woman reading about his case recalled how, the week after the killing, her boyfriend at the time, a known meth dealer, had said “they had a dope deal that went bad and they had to kill four people.”
“My heart is broken for him,” the witness, who did not wish to be identified, told Madigan. “I don’t know what else to do. I know in my gut that this is just not right. I don’t understand why people cannot just listen or not want to see the obvious. To me it is obvious. No one will ever convince me that Mr. Bower did it.”
Three others took the witness stand in recent years providing a similar story.
The judge who heard Bower’s final appeal said new evidence could have resulted in a new trial, but that it did not rise to the level of proving his innocence, so one could not be granted, Madigan writes.
The state stood by its case, noting Bower initially lied to investigators about his attempts to purchase a small airplane owned by one of the victims.
Bower has said he did so to avoid angering his wife.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Bower's emergency filing for a stay.
America executes one person every nine days on average, and has now executed at least one person every month in 2015. Eight executions have occurred in Texas.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.