In an exceedingly rare move, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted Tuesday to recommend a lesser sentence for a death row inmate facing execution.
The board voted unanimously to grant clemency for Thomas Bartlett Whitaker, a man who is set to die on Thursday evening. The decision now falls on Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican who can approve or deny the recommendation to change Whitaker’s death sentence to life in prison.
The last time the board recommended clemency for a death row inmate was in 2007.
Whitaker was convicted in the 2003 murders of his mother and 19-year-old brother. He was involved in a plot to kill his family for inheritance money. His father, Kent Whitaker,was also shot in the attack but survived. He has consistently begged for a life sentence for his son.
“Victims’ rights should mean something in this state, even when the victim is asking for mercy and not vengeance,” Kent Whitaker said at a press conference at the Texas Capitol just before the board’s vote came in.
Keith Hampton, Thomas Whitaker’s lawyer, choked up when announcing to the family and the press that the board had recommended clemency. Whitaker’s wife cried out and grabbed Whitaker, who let out a sob and held his head in his hands.
“Well, we’re going to the governor’s office right now,” Hampton said.
This story is developing and will be updated.