Father's petition granted; son set to die for family's murder granted clemency

The man set to die for murdering his mother and brother has been granted clemency just two days before his execution.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously voted to grant clemency for Bart Whitaker.

Whitaker was convicted for the 2003 deaths of his mom Patricia and his brother Kevin. He was sentenced to death.

But his father, Kent Whitaker, has petitioned for his son's life to be spared.

Some might not understand how he can be so forgiving. But in many ways, Whitaker is living proof that forgiving and forgetting are not the same.

The night of December 10, 2003, began with a celebratory dinner at a nice restaurant for the Whitaker family. They returned home to what first appeared to be an armed robbery. 51-year-old Patricia Whitaker was shot to death along with her 19-year-old son Kevin. Her husband Kent was rushed to the hospital. He, too, had been shot.

“My whole world had changed. I didn’t know why, I didn’t know who had done this,” Kent Whitaker said. “And I was angry at God for allowing it to happen.”

But it would be God, Whitaker says, that told him that night he had to forgive whoever was responsible.

“It was a huge shock to me,” said Whitaker. “I had never experienced anything like it.”

More shocks would soon follow. First Whitaker learned his oldest son Bart had not graduated from Sam Houston State University, the reason for that family night out. Then detectives tell him they believe it was his son Bart who orchestrated the execution of his family.

At first, Whitaker says he was skeptical over the police theory.

“I didn’t know who was responsible for this. It just didn’t seem possible my own son was involved,” Whitaker said.

Even knowing the cold hard truth didn’t stop the father from begging the Fort Bend County DA’s Office not to seek the death penalty for the only member of his immediate family still living. Whitaker says there was never a moment he wanted Bart to be executed for killing his wife and youngest son.

What does he think the just punishment is for Bart?

“What we offered in the first place, let him spend his life in prison, protecting society,” said Whitaker.

Is Bart surprised that his father has forgiven him?

“I think it completely shocked him,” Whitaker said. “I think his concept of himself was so negative that he did not believe anyone could care for him.”

Whitaker visits his son on death row often and says he’s a changed man.

He says he realizes it’s not likely he will be successful in saving his son’s life. If the execution goes as planned Whitaker says he will be there.

“I don’t want him to be looking at that glass and see nobody but people who are trying to kill him,” Whitaker said. “I want him to see somebody there who loves him.”

Bart's fate is now up to Gov. Greg Abbott. He will decide if Bart still faces execution or will spend the rest of his life in prison.