Monday, 11 November, 2019

Texas parole board recommends clemency for man who killed mother, brother

Death row inmate Thomas Whitaker awaits a decision by Gov. Greg Abbott on whether he will accept reject or ignore a recommendation for clemency from the state's parole board Texas parole board recommends clemency for man who killed mother, brother
Patty Aguilar | 22 February, 2018, 21:38

Spurred by the father who Whitaker tried to have killed in 2003, all seven members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles supported clemency for Whitaker in a vote taken Tuesday afternoon, shifting the decision to Abbott, who can support or reject the recommendation to convert the death sentence to life in prison.

Whitaker's father, Kent, also was shot in the same attack but survived and has led the effort to save his 38-year-old son from execution.

It's only the fourth time since the state resumed executions in 1982 that the parole board has recommended clemency this close to an inmate's scheduled execution.

It was the first time the board had recommended to change a death sentence since 2009.

"He can be tough on crime with life in prison", said Whitaker.

One juror in Whitaker's case anonymously told the Houston Chronicle Wednesday that since Whitaker had convinced his roommate to carry out the murders for him, "the only way people are safe is if he's dead".

Keith Hampton, Thomas Whitaker's lawyer, choked up when announcing to the family and the press that the board had recommended clemency.

"I think the most important thing is both I and my staff have the opportunity to evaluate all the facts, all the circumstances, all the law, and base our decision on all of that information", Abbott, who is running for re-election, said late Tuesday at a campaign appearance in Houston.

On Tuesday night, Abbott said the decision deserved serious consideration.

"This may be it, we just don't know", said Whitaker.

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However, if the Governor does rule Whitaker should be killed, his father has said he will attend tomorrow (February 22). A Texas governor has not approved a board proposal for clemency since 2007.

"This is Texas", he said then. To carry out the plot, Bart Whitaker invited his family back to his home after a dinner celebrating his graduation from college - a story he made up to carry out the plot.

"As the greatest victim in this case, you don't have to convince me how bad this crime was", Kent Whitaker said.

Almost two years later, Bart Whitaker was arrested in Mexico after investigators determined he masterminded the murder plot against his family in hopes of collecting the family estate of more than $1 million. He has a final appeal pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, which largely focus on the drugs used in Texas executions.

Kent Whitaker, the condemned prisoner's father, has been moving heaven and earth for years to try to get mercy for his last surviving family member, whom he forgave from his hospital bed.

"Victim's rights should mean something in this state even when the victim is asking for mercy and not vengeance", Kent Whitaker later told a news conference.

Whitaker had planned the murders long in advance, and it was at least his third attempt at killing his family.

Whitaker offered to plead guilty to two life sentences, but the prosecution rejected the offer, saying Whitaker wasn't remorseful and was being manipulative, court records show.

If they proceed, it will be the first time in eight years that three prisoners have been put to death on the same day.

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