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Attorney of Convicted Killer Orders Larger-Than-Life Portrait

May 27, 1986

DALLAS (AP) _ A larger-than-life painting of accused mass murderer Henry Lee Lucas has been commissioned by the lawyer representing him in a trial this summer.

″Why not?″ attorney Rod Ponton said last week in a phone interview from his El Paso office, where the portrait will hang.

″The artist portrays things in an unreal manner and Henry Lee Lucas’ prosecution is similarly unreal. So the artist and subject are made for each other in terms of the absurdity of the prosecution against Henry Lee Lucas.″

Lucas, who has confessed to more than 360 murders nationwide and later recanted, has been convicted of 10 murders, and faces a death sentence.

But state Attorney General Jim Mattox, after a year-long investigation, announced last week that law officers wrongly closed dozens of cases by accepting bogus confessions from Lucas. Except for three cases, ″there is a notable lack of physical evidence″ to back up Lucas’ confessions, Mattox said.

Ponton is representing the one-eyed drifter in the 1983 slaying of Librada Apodaca, 72, of El Paso.

Physical and polygraph evidence shows Lucas did not kill Ms. Apodaca, but the county continues to press its case, Ponton said.

He said he commissioned the painting as a protest ″in the sense that I hope I can portray the ridiculousness of prosecuting a man who’s falsely confessed to 300 crimes.″

The painting is the work of Dallas artist Frank Xavier Tolbert II, who spent about 2 1/2 hours in March with Lucas in his cell at the El Paso County jail. The artist took head-to-toe pictures to work from.

Guards moved Lucas from his eighth-floor cell to the mug shot room for the photo session, Tolbert said.

″Henry Lee was loving it and the guards were hating it,″ he said. ″They hadn’t reached stardom and he had, I guess.″ Tolbert, 40, said he doesn’t know how big his oil-on-linen creation will be - but it will be larger than lifesize.

Ponton says the work is turning out ″bright, vibrant, intense, non- representational and in a large format.″

Lucas was kept in the custody of Texas Rangers for more than a year, and was questioned by dozens of law enforcement agencies across the country.

Ponton said the portrait will hang for awhile in his law office.

″It will initially be used in a ‘Free Henry Lee Lucas’ gathering in El Paso this summer. At that gathering, we hope to convince the district attorney the county should spend money on a new park for El Paso instead of the prosecution of Henry Lee Lucas,″ he said.

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