In a 2012 ruling that denied the majority of his claims on appeal, state Judge James Fallon opined that while Bower’s evidence that someone else committed the crime “could conceivably have produced a different result at trial, it does not prove by clear and convincing evidence that [Bower] is actually innocent.”
Amid thousands of pages of records ultimately released to the lawyers was evidence that the state knew the ammunition was nowhere near as rare as prosecutors and witnesses had suggested; that it was marketed for small game hunting and often used for practice shooting, not just for killing people; and that Bower was hardly alone in having purchased it. (Bower’s lawyers had to file multiple Freedom of Information Act requests and, ultimately, sue to get all the of the withheld documents.)
Also in the records was a detailed and previously undisclosed tip that the murders were actually connected to drug dealing in the area. In December 1983, the FBI was told that local drug supplies had dwindled after a source was “knocked off in Sherman.” Bower’s lawyers point out that, at the time, there were no other murder victims in Sherman, Texas apart from the bodies found in the hangar. What’s more, at the time, allegations existed that one of the victims, Tate, had been involved in cocaine trafficking in the years leading up to the murders — allegations that investigators knew about. But these claims went un-investigated — including by Jerry Buckner, Bower’s trial attorney.