Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Henry Lee Lucas: Prolific Serial Killer or Prolific Liar?

Handling Lucas

Lucas's case occurred in the midst of an incident in Texas that provides some context for its eventual unraveling, so let's first look at that one. Roger Draper, in a lengthy 1994 article about the one-time "frontier ethic" of the Texas Rangers for Texas Monthly, discusses Lucas in the context of what he refers to as the "infamous Brandley case." Draper states that this "epitomized the wrongheadedness of the Ranger Way."

Clarence Brandley
Clarence Brandley

On August 28, 1980, Ranger Wesley Styles investigated the assault and strangulation murder of a high school cheerleader. He arrested the custodian, Clarence Brandley, the next day, without having questioned a single witness. He was quickly charged with capital murder. A jury later convicted him on nothing more than tenuous circumstantial evidence. But Styles' tunnel vision approach was reviewed in 1989 by the Court of Criminal Appeals, and the justices found that he had ignored evidence that pointed to other suspects. He had also threatened the state's star witness and lied on the stand. Brandley, on death row, was freed.

Before that conviction was overturned, and the Rangers embarrassed by one of their own, they were already going through a much more humiliating process at the hands of Lucas. Their zeal was commendable but not their approach. One Ranger in particular bought the whole package.


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