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 How US death penalty capital changed its mind

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PostSubject: How US death penalty capital changed its mind   Sun Feb 11, 2018 6:28 pm

Texas remains the strictest applicant of the US death penalty but its increasing reluctance to put criminals to death reflects a national trend.

Kent Whitaker supported the death penalty until his son, who arranged for a gunman to kill Mr Whitaker and the rest of his family, landed on death row in Texas.

Now Mr Whitaker, the sole survivor of the attack, is desperately seeking clemency for Thomas Whitaker before his execution scheduled on 22 February.

"The petition is based on a legal overstep that shouldn't have happened," says Mr Whitaker. "The district attorney chose to pursue the death penalty despite every victim involved, myself, the relatives of my wife, begging him not to do it."

Shot in the upper chest in the 2003 attack, Mr Whitaker barely survived the ambush after hearing the sound of the bullets that killed his youngest, Kevin, a college sophomore, and his wife Tricia.

Mr Whitaker has asked the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend to Texas Governor Greg Abbott to commute his son's sentence to life in prison.

"I'm not asking them to forgive him as that's not their business," he says.

"But I don't want on 22 February to have to relive what happened to Tricia and Kevin, and lose the last member of my direct family in the name of justice that I think is wrong."

Despite Mr Whitaker's predicament, both executions and the awarding of death sentences are actually decreasing in Texas, reflecting a nationwide trend.

"The culture now is different," says Kristin HoulÚ, executive director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP). "There isn't the same appetite for it from either the public or elected officials."

Since 1976 and the US Supreme Court upholding capital punishment, 1,468 people have been executed in the US - 548 in Texas.

Harris County became known as the execution capital of America when it was executing the highest number of people in all of Texas' counties.

But for the last three years, it has not imposed any death sentences, while 2017 was the first year since 1985 it did not execute anyone.

Executions in Texas peaked in 2000 when there were 40. Last year there were seven, matching 2016 for the lowest number of executions in two decades, amid a national total of 23.
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