A Texas man who shot his father and murdered his mother and brother could avoid the death penalty after a state parole board agreed with his father’s request for mercy.
Thomas “Bart” Whitaker, 39, is scheduled to be executed Thursday, but the parole board’s exceedingly rare request to commute the sentence could save his life, the Houston Chronicle reported. The board has only recommended mercy days before an execution three times since the state resumed executions in 1982. The ultimate decision rests with Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, however, and the three previous recommendations were ignored by former Gov. Rick Perry.
“Victims’ rights should mean something in this state, even when the victim is asking for mercy and not vengeance,” Kent Whitaker told the Texas Tribune when he heard the decision.
A jury convicted Whitaker over murdering his mother and brother and shooting his father in 2003, sentencing him to death. If Abbott complies with the board’s recommendation, he will be commuted to a life sentence. Kent Whitaker told the board that he’s seen “too much killing already,” and had forgiven his son. Whitaker’s lawyer, Keith Hampton, latched onto his statements, claiming the execution would only create further grief.
“I never, ever believed that we were going to get a unanimous decision in favor,” Whitaker said. “The best we were hoping was a 4-3. This is beyond amazing. I can’t tell you.”
Whitaker had planned the murders long in advance, and it was at least his third attempt at killing his family. He staged the murders to look like a burglary gone wrong and shot himself in the arm to dissuade suspicion. Six months after the killings, however, he fled to Mexico, where he was apprehended a year later and put on trial.
In his statement before the parole board, Hampton likened the situation to the Biblical Cain and Abel, referencing that God’s punishment for Cain was not death, but a life of suffering.
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