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On Thursday, Texas Governor, Greg Abbott announced that he has decided to spare the life of a convicted killer who masterminded the death of his parents and brother.
Abbott granted clemency to 38-year-old, Thomas “Bart” Whitaker, a mere hour before he was scheduled for lethal injection.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted unanimously Tuesday to grant Whitaker a “lesser penalty” which meant commuting the man’s death sentence to life behind bars without the possibility of parole.
“In just over three years as governor, I have allowed 30 executions. I have not granted a commutation of a death sentence until now,” Governor Abbott said in a statement.
Bart Whitaker was convicted of capital murder for the shooting and killing of his mother, Tricia Whitaker, and his younger brother, Kevin Whitaker, an attack carried out at the family’s suburban Houston home. His father, Kent Whitaker, was also shot during the attempt but survived.
Kent Whitaker forgave his son and led the effort to save him from execution.
Prosecutor Fred Felcman who initially prosecuted Bart Whitaker’s case, expressed his disappointment on Tuesday after he heard of the parole board’s recommendation.
“I guess the 12 jurors’ opinion means nothing to the parole board,” Felcman said.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles is made up of seven members appointed by the governor. Abbott, who is a Republican, had the option of accepting, rejecting or not acting on the parole board’s recommendation.
However, he agreed to commute Whitaker’s sentence due to Kent Whitaker’s stern opposition to the death penalty. Bart’s father felt that he would have been victimized again if the state of Texas would have put down his last remaining immediate family member, according to Abbott.
This is the fourth time since 1982 that the parole board had recommended clemency within days of an inmate’s execution.
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