Texas Gov. Abbott grants clemency hours before scheduled execution

By Danielle Haynes  |  Feb. 22, 2018 at 7:19 PM
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Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday spared Thomas Whitaker from death row hours before his scheduled execution.

It was the first time a Texas governor has granted clemency in more than 10 years and 140 executions.

Abbott made the decision upon a recommendation from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which unanimously said Thomas Whitaker should be spared.

"In just over three years as governor, I have allowed 30 executions. I have not granted a commutation of a death sentence until now," he said.

Thomas Whitaker was sentenced to death in 2007 for the murders of his mother, Patricia Whitaker, and 19-year-old brother, Kevin Whitaker. He also shot and injured his father, Kent Whitaker, as part of a plot to benefit from an inheritance.

His roommate, Chris Brashear, was the one who pulled the trigger in all three shootings, but Brashear received life in prison.

"The person who fired the gun that killed the victims did not receive the death penalty, but Mr. Whitaker, who did not fire the gun, did get the death penalty," Abbott said.

"Mr. Whitaker's father, who survived the attempt on his life, passionately opposes the execution of his son," Abbott added, saying that played a factor in his decision. "Mr. Whitaker's father insists that he would be victimized again if the state put to death his last remaining immediate family member."

The news release from Abbott's office said Thomas Whitaker agreed to waive any future attempts for parole in exchange for the commutation.

"Mr. Whitaker must spend the remainder of his life behind bars as punishment for this heinous crime," the governor said.

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