Texas Ready To Execute Lester Bower After 3 Decades On Death Row

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas, June 2 (Reuters) - Texas is set on Wednesday to execute Lester Bower, one of the longest-serving inmates on the state's death row who says he was wrongly convicted of killing four men in 1983 and has spent three decades trying to halt his capital punishment.

Lawyers for Bower filed a last-minute appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court last week that faults the sentencing, seeking to prevent the execution by lethal injection scheduled for 6:00 p.m. local time on Wednesday at the state's death chamber in Huntsville.

Lawyers for the state said Bower is guilty of fatally shooting the four men in a deal for a $4,000 ultra-light airplane that went bad and there is no compelling legal reason to further delay the execution.

Bower, 67, has faced imminent execution six times while in prison, according to court papers. In March, the Supreme Court declined to hear a separate appeal filed by Bower's lawyers, who argued that three decades on death row amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

"I'm not upset with the prosecutors or the jury or the judge," Bower said in an interview published on Monday in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

"They did the best job they could do with the information they had at the time. But now there would be a lot of other evidence to consider, and I wish they would have the chance."

A chemical salesman with two children and no criminal record prior to his arrest, Bower was convicted of fatally shooting building contractor Bob Tate, former police officer Ronald Mayes, sheriff's deputy Philip Good and interior designer Jerry Brown.

Prosecutors said Bower killed Tate to steal the airplane Tate was selling and then killed the other three when they unexpectedly showed up at the hangar.

There were no incriminating fingerprints found on the scene and the murder weapon was never recovered. Bower has said after his conviction that his lawyers have witnesses who can pin the killings on Oklahoma drug dealers.

But investigators said they found parts from Tate's airplane at Bower's residence and that he had made calls to Tate. They also said Bower, who also sold firearms, had acquired a gun and exotic ammunition similar to what was used in the killings.

"Bower raises no new claim or claims, but merely seeks to re-open a judgment long since final," the Texas Department of Criminal Justice told the Supreme Court this week in response to the latest appeal. (Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Susan Heavey)