Death Sentence Commuted

(From Texas Tribune Feb 22) – Gov. Greg Abbott spared the life of a death row inmate Thomas Whitaker less than an hour before his scheduled execution.

More than 10 years had passed and nearly 150 people had been executed since a Texas governor last spared an inmate from a death sentence.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott broke that streak at the last minute Thursday when he accepted the state parole board’s rare and unanimous recommendation to grant clemency for death row inmate Thomas Whitaker. Abbott’s order came down less than an hour before Whitaker’s scheduled execution. Whitaker was set to die for the 2003 murders of his mother and brother in Fort Bend County.

It was the first time the board had recommended to change a death sentence to life in prison since 2009 and the first time a governor accepted the change since 2007.

Abbott, a staunch supporter of the death penalty, said he granted clemency for Whitaker for many reasons: The triggerman in the murders got a lesser sentence; his father, a victim of the crime, passionately opposed the execution, and Whitaker had voluntarily waived all claims to parole in exchange, meaning he will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

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