Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Execution Watch 2/22/2018

Tomorrow the State of Texas intends to murder another person...

THOMAS WHITAKER, 38. Mr. Whitaker was sentenced to death for conspiring with a friend in the fatal shootings of his brother and mother. His father, Kent Whitaker, was seriously wounded in the 2003 Houston-area attack. He forgave his son and has since lobbied prosecutors relentlessly to spare his son's life. Thomas Whitaker had undiagnosed mental health issues at the time of the attack, he said, and has proved to be a model prisoner on death row. While in prison, Thomas Whitaker earned a bachelor's degree by mail and was due to receive a master's degree shortly after the scheduled execution.

Thomas Whitaker offered to plead guilty to two counts of murder in exchange for two life sentences, but Fort Bend County prosecutor Fred Felcman decided to go for the death penalty instead.

"I have seen too much killing already,” Kent Whitaker told the American-Statesman. “I don’t want to see him executed right there in front of my eyes. I know Tricia and Kevin would not want him to be executed. I can’t imagine seeing the last living part of my family executed by the state, especially since all the victims didn’t want that to happen in the first place.” 
Whitaker said he, his immediate family and members of Tricia’s family urged Fort Bend County prosecutors to choose a life sentence instead of the death penalty, but to no avail.
This case raises an interesting issue that we see in the courthouse on a regular basis. Prosecutors will listen to victims when they want a harsher sentence. They will cut of plea negotiations with a comment to the effect of the victim won't agree to that deal. However, when the victim asks for leniency or for a case to be dismissed, the prosecutor isn't interested in what they have to say.

Should prosecutors have taken Kent Whitaker's views into account when making the decision to pursue the death penalty against Thomas Whitaker?

On Tuesday, in a surprise move, the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole unanimously recommended that Mr. Whitaker be granted clemency. It will now fall on Gov. Abbott to decide whether to carry forward with the execution or to commute Mr. Whitaker's sentence to life in prison.

Since Abbott calls himself pro-life, my money is on the execution going forward.



Unless a stay is issued, Execution Watch will broadcast live:
Thursday, February 22, 6-7 PM Central Time
KPFT-FM Houston 90.1, HD 3 or online at:

For more information see:

"His son tried to kill him; now father seeks to halt execution," Austin American-Statesman (1/12/2018)


Lee said...

His odds are far better than under Rick Perry.

Paul, you may need for lawyer fact check this statement but I think that if Whitaker is granted clemency he will be given a parole date. The murders happened in 2003 and Texas did not have a life without parole sentence until 2005. Per the ExPostFacto doctrine which means that one is held accountable to the laws in place the time of the offence, he can’t be sentenced to life without parole because it did not exist in Texas when he committed the crimes.

It is also interesting that the parole board voted clemency in a death penalty case where there are no mitigating circumstances. There was no poverty, deficient lawyers, contact with the juvenile justice system, intellectual disability, abuse, absent parent or lack of education. By contrast he had two wealthy stable white parents, attended college (or some of it) and had a life of privilege. There have been many cases of intellectual disability that as a mitigating circumstance that should have come in line for clemency before this one. I am just curious if Texas is making a statement that the rich white guy gets clemency first?

Paul B. Kennedy said...

I'm not really sure what's at play in this case because it is so unusual.