Three executions planned Thursday for three U.S. states

Death Watch Life In Prison For Thomas Whitaker

Texas Gov. weighs parole board's advice on death row inmate's fate

Thursday morning, Whitaker's father traveled to the state prison in Huntsville to say a final goodbye not knowing if his son would be executed or spared at the last minute.

Whitaker was convicted of a freaky 2003 murder plot in which he masterminded the attack of his whole family his mother and brother being killed.

Kent Whitaker, the condemned prisoner's father, has been moving heaven and earth for years to try to get mercy for his last surviving family member, whom he forgave from his hospital bed.

The seven-member Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, whose members are appointed by the governor, recommended unanimously Tuesday that Abbott commute Whitaker's death sentence.

Abbott's predecessor in the governor's office, Rick Perry, rejected two clemency recommendations for inmates facing execution and accepted one over 14 years, according to data kept by the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

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The prosecutor in Whitaker's case, Fred Felcman, told The Texas Tribune Tuesday that Abbott shouldn't grant clemency for Whitaker.

A Republican lawmaker, state Rep. Jeff Leach, of Plano, also worked to convince Abbott to change Whitaker's sentence Thursday, he said.

A Texas man who shot his father and murdered his mother and brother could avoid the death penalty after a state parole board agreed with his father's request for mercy.

The highly religious Texan has consistently begged for clemency and broke down in tears when the parole board voted to withdraw the death sentence for his son.

Kent Whitaker said he was "humbled" and looked forward to hugging and touching his son. It did happen in Georgia in 1990, the group said.

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"I'm very anxious about conversations that are going on and a ticking clock and I've never sat down with anybody from the general counsel's office", he said.

The last time the board has recommended clemency for a death row inmate was almost a decade ago, in 2007, CBS San Antonio affiliate KENS reports. The governor appoints the parole board members.

Hamm's lawyers have said he has terminal cancer, adding years of intravenous drug use, hepatitis C, and untreated lymphoma have made his veins unstable for a lethal injection. The case took a twisted turn when Bart turned out to be the mastermind behind the murder-for-hire plot meant to kill his entire family and injure him as part of the cover-up. That is particularly important in death penalty cases.

Lawyers for Branch appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, citing arguments including that the court previously blocked a Florida provision that allows executions for a non-unanimous jury decision and should do so again in this case.

Evidence showed the murder plot included two of Whitaker's friends and was at least Whitaker's third attempt to kill his family. He'd dropped out of school months earlier. One of those men, his roommate Chris Brashear, shot the father, mother and brother after the family returned from a dinner out. Steve Champagne, who drove Brashear from the Whitaker house the night of the shootings, took a 15-year prison term in exchange for testifying at Whitaker's trial.

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