Texas has executed Lester Bower Jr., who was convicted of killing four men in 1983, after the Supreme Court denied him a final appeal.
Lester Bower Jr., 67, is the oldest man executed in Texas since the state resumed its use of capital punishment in 1982.
Prosecutors said Lester Bower shot dead four men in an aeroplane hangar in Sherman, a ranching town north of Dallas.
He had maintained his innocence throughout his incarceration.
Lester Bower’s last words were: “Much has been said about this case. Much has been written about this case. Not all if it has been the truth. But the time for discerning truth is over and it’s time to move on.”
He is the eighth man put to death by lethal injection in Texas in 2015.
Lester Bower was a chemical salesman with no criminal record at the time of the murders.
According to police, Lester Bower went to Sherman to purchase a plane but instead stole the plane and killed the men in the hanger.
Building contractor and B&B Ranch owner Bob Tate, Grayson County Sheriff’s Deputy Philip Good, interior designer Jerry Brown and former Sherman police officer Ronald Mayes were found dead on October 8, 1983.
Lester Bower initially lied to investigators about being at the hanger and police found parts of a plane owned by Jerry Brown at his home.
Last month, Lester Bower told the Associated Press: “I do have remorse.
“I’m remorseful for putting my family and my wife and my friends through this.”
China has executed four foreign men for the murder of 13 Chinese fishermen on the Mekong river in 2011, after being paraded on state TV.
The men were put to death by lethal injection in Kunming, Yunnan province.
CCTV News broadcast live footage of the men being taken from their cells to the execution site, though it did not show the moment of death.
Many social media users in China have reacted angrily, condemning the broadcast as insensitive.
It is believed to be the first time in China’s recent history that live footage of condemned criminals being taken to their execution has been broadcast.
Chinese internet users spoke out against the special programme, in what some are saying was a throw-back to the execution rallies of China’s past.
Among the prisoners was Naw Kham, a Burmese man thought to have been one of the most powerful warlords in the Golden Triangle of Thailand, Laos and Burma.
China’s state television channel CCTV aired an interview with Naw Kham on Thursday.
“I couldn’t sleep properly over last two days. I miss my mother. It is really painful that I can’t be with my children,” Naw Kham told the channel.
“My mum didn’t know when I was arrested, and I am worrying that she won’t be able to take it when she finds out,” he went on.
Announcing the execution on Twitter, state news agency Xinhua tweeted a photograph of Naw Kham with his hands clasped in front of his forehead. It is unclear when this picture was taken.
Xinhua has said the men had had their “legal rights fully respected” while on death row.
China’s foreign ministry said the case highlighted its determination to tackle cross-border crime.
“I think an important message that this case sends is that it shows the determination of China and the governments of relevant countries to work hard together to combat cross-border crime,” Hua Chunying spokesman for China’s foreign ministry said.
Among the prisoners was Naw Kham, a Burmese man thought to have been one of the most powerful warlords in the Golden Triangle of Thailand, Laos and Burma
The 13 fishermen were found dead inside two Chinese cargo ships in October 2011 on the Thai side of the river.
State media said Naw Kham and his subordinates had collaborated with Thai soldiers in launching an attack on the ships, the Hua Ping and Yu Xing.
The other men were Hsang Kham from Thailand, Yi Lai, who is stateless, and Zha Xika from Laos, said the Xinhua news agency.
The group were arrested in Laos and brought to China in May last year, after Beijing said the attack had happened on board Chinese-flagged ships.
Beijing argued that the men should be extradited for trial – a move which some observers saw as an indication of the considerable political and economic clout China now exercises over its smaller neighbors.
In November, the men were found guilty of intentional homicide, drug trafficking, kidnapping and hijacking.
Two other members of the gang were also convicted – one received a death sentence with reprieve and the other eight years in prison.
Thailand launched an investigation into the allegations against nine of its soldiers in connection with the incident.
The attack came amid a wave of hijacking of vessels sailing on the Mekong which were blamed on gangs operating in the notorious drug-trafficking region.
China, Burma, Laos and Thailand launched joint security patrols on the Mekong in response.
Li Zhuqun, a senior international co-operation official at China’s Ministry of Public Security said the gang had now been broken up, but that “efforts to ensure the safety of the Mekong River will continue”.
“We will continue patrols and law enforcement co-operation with the other three countries to safeguard shipping on the river,” he told China Daily.
Californian voters are to be asked whether they want to abolish the state’s death penalty law.
The measure will appear on November’s ballot after more than 500,000 people signed up to back the proposal.
It would see death row inmates have their sentences commuted to life. Just 13 people have been executed since the law was re-introduced in 1978.
Backers say abolition could save California $100 million per year, but opponents say justice would be harmed.
“Our system is broken, expensive and it always will carry the grave risk of a mistake,” said Jeanne Woodford, a former warden of San Quentin Prison, home to the largest death row unit in the US.
Jeanne Woodford is now an anti-death penalty advocate and is named as the official proposer of the measure, which is backed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The former warden and other supporters say the cash savings would be achieved by taking prisoners off death row and by cutting down on fees for lawyers arguing death penalty cases. The money could be better spent investigating unsolved crimes, backers of the measure say.
Under the terms of the measure those sentenced to life in prison for murder would in future have to take up jobs while incarcerated.
San Quentin State Prison in California is one of the most famous death row sites in the US
With the state of California wracked by long-standing budget issues, there is wide acceptance that the death penalty system needs reform.
Data from the Death Penalty Information Center shows that at the start of the year the state had 723 inmates on death row. The US as a whole had 3,189.
But no inmate has been put to death in California since 2006, and a respected study in 2009 noted that the state was spending some $184 million each year to keep death row and the death penalty infrastructure up and running.
Opponents of the measure argue that the principle of the death penalty is valid and should remain, but say the constant and costly appeals and legal fees are inflating the costs.
“On behalf of crime victims and their loved ones who have suffered at the hands of California’s most violent criminals, we are disappointed that the ACLU and their allies would seek to score political points in their continued efforts to override the will of the people and repeal the death penalty,” former Sacramento prosecutor McGregor Scott told the Associated Press.
The death penalty measure is the fifth to qualify for November’s ballot, California’s secretary of state said on Monday.
Other measures deal with water costs, political contributions, car insurance and local legislative boundaries.
Millions of Chinese people in Henan Province have been tuning in every Saturday night to watch an extraordinary talk show called “Interviews Before Execution”, in which a reporter interviews murderers condemned to death.
The show ran for just over five years, until it was taken off air on Friday.
Every Monday morning, reporter Ding Yu and her team scoured court reports to find cases to cover on their programme. They had to move quickly, as prisoners in China can be executed seven days after they are sentenced.
To Western eyes the show’s format may seem exploitative, but reporter Ding Yu disagrees.
“Some viewers may consider it cruel to ask a criminal to do an interview when they are about to be executed.
“On the contrary, they want to be heard,” Ding Yu says.
“Some criminals I interviewed told me: <<I’m really very glad. I said so many things in my heart to you at this time. In prison, there was never a person I was willing to talk to about past events>>.”
“Interviews Before Execution” was first broadcast on 18 November 2006 on Henan Legal Channel, one of 3,000 state-owned TV stations in China. Ding Yu interviewed a prisoner every week until the programme was taken off air.
The move follows a handful of reports about the show in foreign media, which were triggered by a documentary to be screened on the BBC tonight and on PBS International in the near future.
The aim of “Interviews Before Execution”, the programme-makers say, was to find cases that would serve as a warning to others. The slogan at the top of every programme called for human nature to awaken and “perceive the value of life”.
In China, 55 crimes carry the death penalty, from murder, treason and armed rebellion to bribery and smuggling. Thirteen other crimes, including VAT fraud, smuggling relics and credit fraud, were only recently removed from the list of capital offences.
“Interviews Before Execution”, however, focused exclusively on cases of violent murder.
Millions of Chinese people in Henan Province have been tuning in every Saturday night to watch an extraordinary talk show called “Interviews Before Execution”, in which a reporter interviews murderers condemned to death
The reporter never interviewed political prisoners or cases where the crime was in question, and the team received the Henan high court’s consent in every case.
“Without their consent, our programme would end immediately,” said Ding Yu.
Broadcast every Saturday night, the programme was frequently rated one of Henan’s top 10 shows, with nearly 40 million viewers out of the 100 million who live in the province.
The programme made Ding Yu a star, known to many as “Beauty with the Beasts”.
If people failed to heed the warnings the programme offered, Ding Yu says, then it was right that they should face the consequences.
“I feel sorry and regretful for them. But I don’t sympathize with them, for they should pay a heavy price for their wrongdoing. They deserve it.”
Many of the cases featured in the programme were motivated by money and one case in particular stands out for Ding Yu.
The perpetrators were boyfriend and girlfriend – young, educated college graduates.
The couple planned to rob her grandparents but it went wrong and the young man, 27-year-old Zhang Peng, ended up killing them both.
“They are so young. They never had the chance to see this world, or to enjoy life, a career, work, and the love of family.
“They’ve made the wrong choice, and the price is their lives,” said Ding Yu.
But after more than 200 interviews, little surprises her.
“I’ve interviewed criminals even younger than that young student, some just 18 years old. That is the minimum age you can be sentenced to death.”
Homosexuality is still a huge taboo in China, and when in 2008 the show covered the case of Bao Ronting, a gay man who murdered his mother, ratings soared.
It was the first time Ding Yu had ever met an openly gay man.
“I had never come close to a gay man, so I really couldn’t accept some of his practices, words and deeds.
“Though he was a man, he asked me in a very feminine tone, ‘Do you feel awkward speaking to me?’ Actually I felt very awkward,” Ding Yu recalls.
Ding Yu and her team made a further three episodes on the case of Bao Ronting and followed him until the day he was executed in November 2008.
During one of these meetings, Bao Ronting asked Ding Yu: “Will I go to heaven?”
Remembering these words, Ding Yu reflects: “I witness the transition from life to death.”
Bao Ronting was paraded in an open top truck on the way to his execution with a placard around his neck, detailing his crime. The practice is illegal in modern China – but the law is not always observed.
Judge Lui Wenling, who worked closely with the programme-makers, says things are changing in the Chinese legal system.
“The present criminal policies in China are <<To kill less and cautiously>> and <<Combining lenience and strictness>>.
“It means, <<If the case is fit for lenient treatment, give it lenience>>, and, <<If the case should be strictly treated, give it a strict punishment>>,” he says.
Ding Yu recently covered the case of Wu Yanyan, a young mother who murdered her husband after allegedly suffering years of abuse.
She was initially sentenced to death for the murder. But since 2007, every execution verdict in China has to be approved by the Supreme Court, and in this case it took the view that the abuse provided mitigating circumstances.
The higher court kept returning the case to the local court until the death sentence was suspended.
Ding Yu visited the prison with Wu Yanyan’s daughter for an emotional reunion. If the young mother continues to behave well in prison, after two years she could ultimately be released – a small sign of changing attitudes in China.
One of China’s more liberal judges, Judge Pan, along with some other senior figures in the justice system, foresees more far-reaching reforms in future.
“A life could end in the twinkling of an eye after a trial. I’d say this is also very cruel,” he says.
“It’s also a means of getting rid of evil deeds through an evil deed.
“Should we abolish the death penalty? Since the death sentence for criminals is itself a violent act, then we should abolish it. However, I don’t think our country is ready yet.
“But in the future, it would be good to abolish it.”
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