Gov. Abbott spares Texas inmate Thomas Whitaker from being executed

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On Tuesday, The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles made a unanimous recommendation that Abbott commute his death sentence.

In a rare coincidence, three U.S. states are set to each execute a prisoner Thursday - although each man's lawyers have appealed for a last-minute reprieve.

The move was an unusual one from the board, which voted unanimously to recommend clemency.

His office was silent midday Wednesday about the Whitaker case. In a clemency petition, the father said it was his right as a victim to seek mercy and if the death penalty were implemented, it would make his pain worse. "And it deserves very serious consideration on my part".

Facing the death penalty in Texas is Bart Whitaker, 38, who hired a gunman to kill his family.

"One of the blessings that is going to come from this, for me, is that as time goes by perhaps (Bart) will earn the privilege of having an open visit where I'll be able to actually hug him and shake his hand". "The clock's ticking. I'm just waiting".

Texas governors can not grant commutation without prior support from the parole board, and the Whitaker case was Abbott's first such decision in a death row case.

In two of those cases, then Gov. Rick Perry rejected the board's recommendation and those prisoners were executed. He said the board only listened to Whitaker's father.

"I'm humbled by all of it", said Kent, on hearing his son's words for the first time. "He has the authority to wait until 5:55 on Thursday, but why put everybody through that?"

He said testimony from psychiatrists and the family's investigators who said Bart was manipulative was disregarded. "And there is no ambiguity here".

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"I guess the 12 jurors' opinion means nothing to the parole board", Fred Felcman, one of the trial prosecutors, said. All four were shot.

Kent, a devout Christian, said he had initially been "mad at God" after being shot in the thorax by the masked assailant who took the lives of his wife Tricia, 51, and his 19-year-old son Kevin.

Thomas "Bart" Whitaker is scheduled for lethal injection Thursday evening for masterminding the fatal shootings of his mother and brother at their suburban Houston home in 2003 in a plot to collect inheritance.

"I don't want to be there but at the same time I'm not going to let my son die without him knowing that there was someone who really cared about validating him as a human". "I put the plan in motion".

Assistant football coach Aaron Feis, hailed for shielding students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, "was very courageous", Trump said Wednesday during a listening session with parents and survivors of school shootings.

Kent Whitaker said the governor's dramatic decision - which came after his son was served his last meal and after they had said their final goodbyes during a 90-minute phone call that ended shortly before 5 p.m. - capped a long and nerve-wracking wait.

"It was so terrible; we were crying at the end because it looked like it was actually going to happen", Kent Whitaker told the American-Statesman by phone from Huntsville. "I've lived it for 14 years now". And his lawyers could also appeal a Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decision that rejected a challenge of jury instructions in death penalty trials.

Since the US Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, clemency at the request of a forgiving victim's family has been nearly unheard of, according to the non-profit Death Penalty Information Center, which monitors US capital punishment.

The state responded that it knew what it was doing and could handle the lethal injection.