Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A Million Dollar Murder

'Humanity at Its Worst'

Prosecutors probably blundered by bringing to the witness stand four men who claimed the lovers had solicited them to kill Jacques Mossler. Two were escorted to court directly from prison, and the others were ex-cons who had worked with Powers. They said they were offered up to $10,000 to kill Mossler.

As the Tribunes Holmes put it, The criminals the state dug up... were as fantastic an array of underworld characters as were ever assembled for display at a major trial. Some of them represented hitherto unplumbed depths of the dregs of society. Not only could they not be believed when they spoke, they were themselves unbelievable. They were grotesque caricatures of humanity at its worst.

Actually, three of the men were fairly credible, including the two ex-colleagues of the defendant, who gave detailed accounts of their conversations with Powers. But the fourth man, Billy Frank Mulvey, was such an obvious liar that he led jurors to discount the testimony of all four - and perhaps to doubt the prosecutions entire case.

Mulvey, 35, a lifelong Texas thief and drug dealer, claimed that Candy Mossler paid him $7,000 to kill her husband. He said he took the money and spent it but did not carry out the contract. His story drew one of the few reactions from Candy during the trial. She blurted out, I never seen or heard of this man, drawing an admonishment from Judge Schulz.

Mulvey then went on to say that he briefly shared a cell with Mel Powers in the Harris County Jail in Houston after his arrest for the murder in July 1964. Mulvey claimed Powers confessed to him.

The coincidence that Mulvey would be involved in both the hit solicitation and the Powers confession apparently did not seem incredible to the prosecutors. The same could not be said of the 12 men in the jury box.

Dominic Dunne's Power, Priviledge and Justice