Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has accepted the state parole board's recommendation and is sparing the life of convicted killer Thomas "Bart" Whitaker, the AP reports. The 38-year-old Whitaker was set for execution Thursday evening for masterminding a murder plot that took the lives of his mother and younger brother at the family home in suburban Houston in 2003. His father, also wounded in the shootings, has long favored clemency for his son, saying he's forgiven him. The seven-member parole board Tuesday unanimously recommended Whitaker's death sentence be reduced. Prosecutors who convinced a jury to send him to death row said the parole board's decision was wrong and negated the jurors' verdict. It's the first time in more than a decade that a Texas governor has halted an imminent execution.
Whitaker says he's "thankful" for Abbott's decision because of what it means for his dad. Whitaker said in a statement to prison officials: "I'm thankful not for me but for my dad." He went on to say, "Any punishment that I would have or will receive is just, but my dad did nothing wrong." Texas prison officials had described Whitaker as nearly stoic after his move from death row to a holding cell steps from the death chamber. Asked if he planned to make a final statement, he told officials he would but had no plans to "do anything self-aggrandizing." Whitaker will instead serve life in prison.
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