Clemency rare for death row convicts in Texas

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The last Texas death row inmate to be granted clemency was Kenneth Eugene Foster, who was convicted in a 1996 capital murder.

By the numbers, Bart Whitaker's chance at clemency looked like a long shot.

Even his father, Kent Whitaker, seemed less than sure that Gov. Greg Abbott would commute his son's execution as he visited with him Thursday morning.

But about 40 minutes before Bart was scheduled to be put to death in Huntsville, the phone rang.

Abbott commuted Whitaker's death sentence, and chose to send him to prison for the rest of his life.

The decision was the state's first commutation of a capital murder sentence since 2007, and comes on the heels of the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole's recommendation of clemency for Whitaker, who was convicted nearly a decade ago in the murders of his mother and brother in Sugar Land.

While sentence commutations are rare in Texas, Abbott's predecessor, then-Gov. Rick Perry, had a documented history of granting clemency.

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According to data from the Texas Tribune, Kenneth Eugene Foster was the last Texas inmate to have his or her sentence commuted. Perry commuted Foster's sentence on September 28, 2007.

Foster was convicted and sentenced to death for his role in the 1996 capital murder of Michael LaHood.

Perry's office said in a statement then that "Foster sought to have his death sentence commuted to a life sentence, arguing that he did not shoot the victim, but merely drove the car...that the actual killer was riding (in)."

After a Supreme Court ruling in 2005, Perry also granted clemency to 28 death row inmates who had committed their crimes while they were under the age of 18.

Additionally, Perry previously commuted the death sentences of two convicts who were judged to be mentally handicapped.

In all, data shows the state has commuted 32 sentences since 2004.

LIST: Recent sentence commutations in Texas
  • Whitaker, Thomas Bartlett - 2/22/2018
  • Foster, Kenneth Eugene - 9/28/2007
  • Lane, Doil Edward - 4/11/2007
  • Acuna, Robert Aaron - 9/21/2005
  • Wilson, Geno - 9/20/2005
  • Williams, Nanon - 9/19/2005
  • Williams, Bruce Lee - 9/18/2005
  • Villarreal, Raul - 9/17/2005
  • Tran, Son Vu Khai - 9/16/2005
  • Springsteen, Robert IV - 9/15/2005
  • Soriano, Oswaldo - 9/14/2005
  • Solomon, Christopher Julian - 9/13/2005
  • Salinas, Jorge Alfredo - 9/12/2005
  • Reeves, Whitney - 9/11/2005
  • Perez, Efrain - 9/10/2005
  • Monterrubio, Jose Ignacio - 9/9/2005
  • Lopez, Michael - 9/8/2005
  • Little, Leo Gordon - 9/7/2005
  • Jones, Anzel - 9/6/2005
  • Johnson, Eddie - 9/5/2005
  • Jackson, Jimmy - 9/4/2005
  • Guillen, Derek Jermaine - 9/3/2005
  • Dixon, Tony Tyrone - 9/2/2005
  • Dickens, Justin - 9/1/2005
  • Dewberry, John Curtis - 8/31/2005
  • Cobb, Raymond Levi - 8/30/2005
  • Capetillo, Edward Brian - 8/29/2005
  • Bernal, Johnnie - 8/28/2005
  • Arthur, Mark Sam - 8/27/2005
  • Arroyo, Randy Baez - 8/26/2005
  • Alvarado, Steven Brian - 8/25/2005
  • Smith, Robert - 6/21/2004
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