Texas commutes death sentence, Florida executes murderer
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Texas Governor Greg Abbott commuted the death sentence of a convicted murderer less than an hour before he was set to be executed on Thursday after the death row inmate's family begged for mercy and won a rare clemency recommendation.
Florida executed a man convicted of the 1993 rape and murder of a college student, the state's Department of Corrections said, while Alabama planned to execute a convicted murderer later on Thursday.
In Texas, Thomas Whitaker (38), was convicted of masterminding a 2003 plot against his family in which his mother Tricia (51), and brother Kevin (19), were killed. His father Kent was shot in the chest but survived.
Kent Whitaker, a devout Christian and retired executive, said he had forgiven his son and that his family did not want him to be executed. The father said in a clemency petition it was his right as a victim to seek mercy and it would make his pain worse if the death penalty were implemented.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended clemency in a unanimous decision on Tuesday based largely on the father's request.
Mr. Abbott, a Republican, commuted the sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole, saying various factors influenced his decision, including the father's wishes and the board's recommendation.
Thomas Whitaker said: “I'm thankful for this decision, not for me but for my dad.”
“Whatever punishment I might have received or will receive will be just. I deserve any punishment for my crimes but my dad did nothing wrong,” he was quoted as saying by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Florida executed Eric Branch (47), by lethal injection for the 1993 murder of University of West Florida student Susan Morris, the Department of Corrections said. His execution was the fourth this year in the United States, with the previous three in Texas.
Alabama planned to execute Doyle Hamm (61), at 6 p.m. (Midnight GMT) for the 1987 murder of motel clerk Patrick Cunningham. Hamm's lawyers have said the death row inmate was too ill to be executed and the proceedings were delayed while the U.S. Supreme Court pondered their appeal.
The court later denied the petition in a split decision, clearing the way for Hamm to be executed later on Thursday.
Hamm has terminal cancer and years of intravenous drug use and untreated lymphoma had made his veins unstable for a lethal injection, his lawyers said.