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Texas governor spares convicted killer from execution

Texas governor spares convicted killer from execution

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Thomas Bartlett Whitaker was 23 when he arranged the murder of his mother and brother

By Alison Chung, News Reporter

A man who hired a gunman to kill his mother and brother has had his death sentence commuted, less than an hour before he was set to be executed.

Texas governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, commuted Thomas "Bart" Whitaker's sentence to life in prison without parole.

The last-minute reprieve came after the death row inmate's family pleaded with the state to grant clemency.

In a proclamation explaining his decision, Mr Abbott wrote: "Mr Whitaker's father, who survived the attempt on his life, passionately opposes the execution of his son.

"Mr Whitaker's father insists that he would be victimised again if the state put to death his last remaining immediate family member.

"The totality of these factors warrants a commutation of Mr Whitaker's death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole."

Whitaker, 38, was convicted of masterminding a 2003 plot against his family in which his mother Tricia, 51, and brother Kevin, 19, were killed. His father, Kent, was shot in the chest and survived.

After his life was spared, Whitaker said in a statement to prison officials: "I'm thankful not for me but for my dad.

"Any punishment that I would have or will receive is just, but my dad did nothing wrong. The system worked for him today. And I will do my best to uphold my role in the system."

On Tuesday, the seven-member Texas parole board in a unanimous decision recommended clemency based on his father's request.

Kent Whitaker, a devout Christian and retired executive, said he had forgiven his son and that his family did not want him to be executed.

In a clemency petition, his father said if the death penalty were implemented, it would make his pain worse.

It is the first time in more than a decade that a Texas governor has halted an imminent execution.

An execution planned for Thursday in Florida was delayed as the US Supreme Court heard a last-minute appeal, a prisons official said.

There was also an execution planned for Alabama on Thursday.


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