Governor’s Call: Life or Death for Texas Killer

The fate of a Sugar Land killer is now in the hands of the Governor. Gov. Greg Abbott will decide if tonight's scheduled execution of 38-year-old Bart Whitaker will go forward, after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended clemency for Whitaker earlier this week. Whitaker was convicted and sentenced to die for orchestrating the fatal shootings of his mother and brother at their Sugar Land home in 2003 in order to claim more than a million dollars in inheritance money. His father, Kent Whitaker, was also targeted in the plan but survived the shooting and is now advocating for his son's life to be spared.

This marks the first time since 2007 that the Pardons Board has recommended clemency for a Texas death row inmate. "To get the (board) to do what they've done here is an extremely rare event," says Houston attorney Chris Tritico. "There must have been really, really strong evidence that this man is reformed, because you just don't see this happening in Texas."

Tritico tells KTRH the board's ruling isn't necessarily an invalidation of the jury's decision, but more of a revised sentence based on current circumstances. "They're saying that what we see today is not the person that did those acts that the jury recommended death for, and we can now see a reason why this person should live," he says.

Whatever the governor ultimately decides, Tritico believes Abbott is now in a politically difficult position. "Does he have the wherewithal to follow the Board of Pardons and Paroles, and in an election year grant a clemency for someone who a jury said needs to be executed," asks Tritico.

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