2008-09-02 / Front Page

Jury finds Gower guilty in capital murder trial

By DAVID LOWE Staff Writer

PHOTO BY JIM LOWE Donald Dean Gower, 40, left, of Copperas Cove, is escorted Thursday afternoon by Assistant Jail Administrator Bill Tower from the Lampasas County Jail, in background, to the county courthouse. Moments later, the verdict of a 10-man, 2-woman jury was announced: Gower was found guilty of capital murder in the July 4, 2007, shooting of his wife, Hidi. A jury of 10 men and two women on Thursday afternoon found Donald Gower, 40, guilty of capital murder in connection with the July 4, 2007, shooting of his wife, Hidi Gower.

Instructed to render a verdict either on a capital murder charge or on the lesser charge of murder, the jury began deliberations about 2:45 p.m. and announced 50 minutes later it had reached a verdict.

Judge Joe Carroll, 27th District Court judge, pronounced a life sentence without parole for Gower. The Copperas Cove resident will file an appeal to the Third Court of Appeals. Court-appointed defense attorney John Galligan of Belton said Gower will be represented by new legal counsel for the appeal.

In closing remarks to the jury, Lampasas County District Attorney Larry Allison, prosecutor in the case, argued that Regina Edwards, Gower's former fiancee, had corroborated the testimonies offered by alleged accomplices John Martinez and Jeremiah Ellison.

Although Ms. Edwards was arrested in July 2007 in connection with Mrs. Gower's shooting at the Kempner Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3393, Carroll later dismissed her charges.

Because Ms. Edwards no longer faces charges, Allison said she does not meet the definition of an "accomplice." She can, however, corroborate accomplice testimony, he said.

Early during Gower's trial, Ms. Edwards testified that her former lover talked of having his wife killed. Ms. Edwards testified that Gower mentioned his wife's workplace, a Temple Alltel store -- where Martinez said Gower initially wanted him to kill Mrs. Gower -- as a possible murder location.

Galligan and his assistant, Ryan Smith, however, emphasized Texas Ranger Jess Ramos' testimony that Ms. Edwards lied repeatedly in her statements to law enforcement. The defense encouraged jurors to judge Ms. Edwards' credibility and noted that her testimony could not corroborate accomplices' testimonies if she also acted as an accomplice.

"Virtually all [the prosecution's] case stemmed from accomplice testimony," Galligan said after the trial ended.

Galligan also disputed claims by Martinez and Ellison that they discussed their involvement in the murder as a result of remorse. The defense presented as evidence an October 2007 letter to Martinez's and Ellison's attorneys, in which Allison wrote that statements the defendants gave would not be used against them in court.

"Contrary to the expressions of remorse, I didn't see it. ...These guys are sitting out there with a pretty sweet deal," Galligan said after the trial.

Martinez and Ellison still have the option of a trial, Allison said. The district attorney said he is willing to charge them with solicitation for murder or conspiracy to commit murder, both first-degree felony charges punishable by five to 99 years in prison rather than by a mandatory life sentence.

"We'll make some concessions on punishment to Martinez and Ellison but to what extent remains to be seen," Allison said.

The prosecutor said he decided soon after arrests last July to try Gower and Chaka Johnson, convicted June 13, 2008, of capital murder in connection with Mrs. Gower's shooting.

"I think we've accomplished what we set out to do," Allison said.

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