Texas Governor to decide if killer receives clemency from death penalty

Thomas "Bar" Whitaker was sentenced to death for killing his mother and brother, but his father is asking for clemency. Whitaker was scheduled for lethal injection this morning, but now Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will decide his fate.

On Tuesday, the seven-member Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously recommended that Abbott commute Whitaker’s death sentence.

The Republican governor has fewer than 12 hours to accept the recommendation, reject it or do nothing. His office has not responded to inquiries about Whitaker’s case.

"The board only recommends," said Keith Hampton, one of Whitaker's attorneys. "The power resides purely in Gov. Abbott. He could do nothing, which would be pretty amazing. He could literally do nothing. Then (Whitaker) gets executed."

Texas state attorneys were opposing the request to block the execution, saying claims about the drug's ineffectiveness had been repeatedly rejected in the courts.

Kent and Patricia Whitaker and their two boys had returned home the night of Dec. 10, 2003, following a restaurant dinner to celebrate Bart Whitaker's college graduation when they were confronted by a gunman wearing dark clothes and a ski mask. Patricia Whitaker and her 19-year-old son, Kevin, were fatally shot. Kent Whitaker and Bart were wounded.

"I'm 100 percent guilty," Whitaker testified at his trial in 2007. "I put the plan in motion."

In the clemency petition, Whitaker's attorneys said his execution would "permanently compound" his father's suffering and grief, and compared the case to the biblical story of Cain and Abel, where God sent Cain to "restlessly wander" after killing his brother.

It's only the fourth time since the state resumed executions in 1982 that the parole board has recommended clemency within days of an inmate's scheduled execution. In the previous cases, then-Gov. Rick Perry accepted the board's decision in one case and rejected the other two, who subsequently were put to death in the nation's most active capital punishment state.

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