Prosecutors: Death row inmate’s story is ‘cock-and-bull’

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by JASON WHITELY

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwhitely

WFAA

Posted on October 30, 2012 at 11:47 AM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 30 at 6:08 PM

SHERMAN — Convicted murderer Les Bower returned to the witness stand on Tuesday in the very court that sent him to death row 29 years ago.

Bower, an articulate 64-year-old from Arlington, was convicted of killing Bob Tate, Phillip Good, Ronald Mayes, and Jerry "Mac" Brown in 1983 while buying an ultralight aircraft at a rural airplane hangar in Sherman.

“My family, my wife, and my mother-in-law have been doing this for a long time,” said Brian Shadden, 51, Brown's son-in-law. “It gets old, and it needs to come to an end."

During cross-examination on Tuesday, prosecutors got into a testy exchange with the condemned man.

Assistant District Attorney Kerye Ashmore questioned why Bower never told inquiring FBI agents that he once owned a Ruger .22-caliber pistol, similar to the kind of weapon used in the Sherman murders.

Bower, wearing an orange Grayson County Jail jumpsuit, said he didn’t reveal it because the weapon was no longer in his possession.

He said he left the Ruger .22 — along with a tripod, stove, cooking utensils, and general camping items — after a quick exit from the mountains of Colorado during a painful kidney stone episode.

“What was I going to do with a .22 caliber pistol?” Bower asked Ashmore. “You’re insinuating I might run into some dead body somewhere.”

“What I’m insinuating, sir, is you had a type of weapon that could have been used in this crime, but you left it on a mountain, and that’s a cock-and-bull story; that’s what I’m implying," Ashmore replied.

“I agree to that,” Bower concluded.

He said he didn’t reveal his previous ownership of the Ruger .22 because that’s not what FBI agents asked.

“I believe what they asked me is what type of guns do I possess. I told them what I had possession of,” Bower explained.

Still, Ashmore pointed out that Bower did tell FBI agents about a .357-caliber he used to own.

“Was there any reason you would kill four men?” defense attorney James Glenn asked Bower in re-direct.

“No,” he said.

Bower returned to Sherman for a hearing on new evidence in his case. One of the most interesting developments was not discussed in court, but will be filed with the judge in the coming days.

The defense said it received five documents from the FBI that it did not turn over to Bower’s original attorney, which directly challenges evidence used against him about Fiocchi ammunition.

The new FBI data describe the bullets he ordered from that manufacturer as being neither "rare" nor "subsonic," as prosecutors originally characterized them as to jurors.

“Is it going to be better to let an innocent man prove his innocence once more in a trial or is it better to execute a man that could possibly be innocent?” asked Shari Bower, the inmate’s wife.

Edward Hueske, a forensic scientist who teaches at the University of North Texas, testified next for the defense on Tuesday.

Glenn asked Hueske if is it reasonable for one person to have committed four murders like those for which Bower is accused.

But his opinion as an expert is no better than a police officer or anyone who sits in the courtroom, prosecutor Karla Hackett said, objecting to the question because there’s no such scientific field.

Still, Judge Jim Fallon let Hueske give his opinion about whether one man could have killed four others.

“In my opinion, it is inconsistent with one assailant and only one,” Hueske testified.

Hueske went on to testify that Bower’s Ruger .22 was a newer weapon than the one believed to have been used in the crime.

Bower had not testified on his own behalf since 2000.

DNA test results on hair and cigarette butts from the 1983 scene resolved nothing Tuesday. At least four of the 29 hairs tested could not be identified, prosecutors said.

But the defense suggested the hairs might belong to the "real" killer.

Prosecutors had several standing objections to most of the testimony presented by Bower’s legal team, saying it was not new and had been given during the original trial almost 30 years ago.

Judge Jim Fallon has until the end of the year to make a recommendation to the Court of Criminal Appeals, which is currently considering Bower’s case. At issue is whether the new evidence presented in this hearing exonerates Bower.

This is likely one of, if not the last, appeals Bower can mount. After serving 29 years, Bower is among longest-serving inmates on death row at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston.

E-mail jwhitely@wfaa.com

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