By Jon Shroeder
Killeen Daily Herald
LAMPASAS -- Following a guilty verdict today, Donald Gower received an automatic life sentence for the murder of his wife, Hidi Gower, on July 4, 2007.
After just about an hour of deliberation this afternoon at the Lampasas 27th District Court, the jury convicted Gower of capital murder in connection with the shooting death of Hidi at the Kempner Veterans of Foreign Wars Post.
Following closing arguments that started at noon, the jury began deliberation at 2:45 p.m., returning with a verdict at 3:35 p.m. The automatic life sentence was announced just 10 minutes later, at 3:45 p.m.
Gower was found guilty for being at the heart of an alleged conspiracy offering money to kill his wife, in turn, to Jeremiah John Ellison, John Robert Martinez and Chaka Romain Johnson, who was convicted as the shooter in June and given a life sentence without parole.
Gower' attorney, John Galligan, immediately filed a notice of appeal and Gower requested a new attorney. Galligan will not represent Gower at the Third Civil Court of Appeals in Austin.
Testimony for the prosecution on Wednesday focused on fleshing out the narrative of the planning stages of Hidi Gower's death, and cross-examination by Galligan focused on undermining the credibility of Martinez and Ellison.
According to the first-hand accounts of Regina Edwards, against whom capital murder charges were dropped last year, her daughter (a minor) and Martinez, $250 to buy the murder weapon passed from Donald Gower to Jeremiah Ellison (he disputed this point in testimony), then to Martinez, who ultimately bought the weapon, a single-action Colt .45.
Martinez said in his testimony that he expected $10,000 from Gower to be split between himself ($4,500), Johnson ($4,500) and Ellison ($1,000). Ellison confirmed the $1,000 payment to himself and the $10,000 offer made by Gower.
The murder itself, Johnson's conviction, was not in question during the trial, with neither set of attorneys and no witness denying that the shooting was carried out by him, with Martinez driving the getaway vehicle, on July 4 of last year.
The defense questioned the credibility of Edwards' testimony Tuesday, as it came following the reduction of her bond from $500,000 to $2,500 last October.
Johnson did not testify, since his attorney said after his conviction that an appeal would be forthcoming.
Both Martinez and Ellison were indicted on capital murder charges and have pre-trial hearing dates set, although Ellison is out on a $10,000 bond. Both have admitted responsibility in court for their actions.
Ellison said he was responsible for "doing nothing" to prevent the murder. Ellison has already said he will plead "not guilty" in his upcoming trial.
Read more in Friday's edition of the Killeen Daily Herald.
Contact Jon Schroeder at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7475.