Texas awaits Gov. Greg Abbott's decision on Sugar Land killer's imminent fate

Texas awaits Gov. Greg Abbott's decision on Sugar Land killer's imminent fate

Thomas "Bart" Whitaker, who attended Baylor in 2001 before transferring to Sam Houston State University, is scheduled for lethal injection Thursday for arranging the fatal shootings of his mother and brother at their suburban Houston home in 2003.

Kent Whitaker, the father and 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.

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.

Abbott's options appeared to be accepting the recommendation, rejecting it or doing nothing.

One juror in Whitaker's case anonymously told the Houston Chronicle Wednesday that since Whitaker had convinced his roommate to carry out the murders for him, "the only way people are safe is if he's dead". As lawyer Keith Hampton read the outcome, Whitaker covered his face with his hand and wept softly.

The board has only recommended mercy days before an execution three times since the state resumed executions in 1982. Rick Perry rejected the board's recommendation and those prisoners are among the 548 executed in Texas, more than any other state.

He hated his parents and brother at the time, he said.

Whitaker has said he wanted Abbott to see his son's case as an opportunity for a "win-win situation".

A jury convicted Whitaker over murdering his mother and brother and shooting his father in 2003, sentencing him to death.

"We've made multiple telephone calls, we've left messages, Kent did speak at some length with a person in the chief of staff's office and said he'd love to have face-to-face meeting with the governor, but it would have to be in the morning because he promised his son that they'd be together in the afternoon", Hampton said.

"I don't know if that's part of the allowed protocol", Healey said.

Kent Whitaker said his son has been a model inmate and has provided letters from death row prison guards to back him up.

"As the greatest victim in this case, you don't have to convince me how very bad this crime was", Kent Whitaker said.

Brent Whitaker, a Texas man who hired a gunman to kill his entire family, was waiting Thursday for a last-minute reprieve after his father - whom he tried to murder - pleaded for his son's life. Six months after the killings, however, he fled to Mexico, where he was apprehended a year later and put on trial. But it's now up to the governor to officially commute his sentence to life in prison, or the execution scheduled for tonight will be carried out. The board had voted 6-1 in favor of a commutation. Foster was the getaway driver in the slaying and both he and a partner received death sentences. It would be extremely rare for the governor to go against the parole board's decision. He took the same action in 2009 in the case of death row inmate Robert Lee Thompson, who was executed despite a favorable a 5-2 ruling from the board.

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