Board recommends life of convicted killer Thomas 'Bart' Whitaker be spared

By AP Author, Aaron Barker - Senior Web Editor, Brandon Walker - Reporter

AUSTIN, Texas - The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, in a rare decision, is unanimously recommending the death sentence of convicted killer Thomas "Bart" Whitaker be commuted to life.

Whitaker is set to undergo lethal injection Thursday for masterminding the fatal shootings of his mother and brother at their suburban Houston home in 2003. Whitaker's father, Kent, also was shot in the attack but survived. He's said he wants his 38-year-old son to live.

RELATED: Bart Whitaker's father says he forgives him

The recommendation from the seven-member panel goes to Gov. Greg Abbott, who can reject it.

James Rytting, Whitaker's attorney, said Tuesday's decision was a major step toward securing his client's clemency. 

"It's important to understand he is not going to be pardoned. The best he can hope for is a very harsh punishment," Rytting said. "This is a stunning result, but one that is entirely mature and reasonable," Rytting said. "Victims' rights should mean more than revenge in Texas." 

Kent Whitaker has long said that he has forgiven his son and the gunman his son hired to kill the family. 

"What the board's decision did was show respect for Kent, understanding that the father, the family, are vitally important. They are victims and they must be heard," Rytting said.

WATCH: KPRC2 interviews Bart Whitaker in prison

It's only the fourth time since the state resumed executions in 1982 that the parole board has recommended clemency this close to an inmate's scheduled execution. In two of those cases, then -- Gov. Rick Perry rejected the board's recommendation and those prisoners were executed.

KPRC2 contributed to this article.

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