Supreme Court stays execution scheduled next week in Texas

"By any standard, the length of of Mr. Bower's incarceration on death row is 'unusual,'" his lawyers said.

By Frances Burns

WASHINGTON, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay Thursday to a man who was scheduled to die next week after 30 years on death row in Texas.

Lawyers for Lester Leroy Bower have appealed his conviction and sentence to the highest court. Their grounds include the length of time since he was given a death sentence, and they argue that a 30-year wait for execution is cruel and unusual punishment.


Bower, 67, has continued to deny that he killed Bobby Tate, Philip Good, Ronald Mayes and Jerry Brown in an aircraft hangar in 1983 during an attempt to hijack an ultralight plane. His lawyers say there is "significant lingering doubt regarding guilt or innocence."

The Supreme Court has not yet decided whether to review his case. The justices agreed automatically to delay the execution but said it will expire if they decide not to take the appeal.

Since he was tried in 1984, Bower has had six execution dates, his lawyers said.

"By any standard, the length of of Mr. Bower's incarceration on death row is 'unusual' and far outside anything the Framers of the Constitution would have considered acceptable rather than cruel," the lawyers argued.


The lawyers also argue that Texas's procedures in death penalty cases in 1984 may have prevented the jury from hearing testimony of Bower's good character that might have been mitigating evidence in the sentencing phase and that prosecutors may have failed to produce evidence that contradicted their theory that Bower was guilty.

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