Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?

In the past, abolition efforts have faced a backlash—but Gavin Newsom’s moratorium may be different.
The American death penalty is extraordinarily fragile, with death sentences and executions on the decline. Public support for the death penalty has diminished. The practice is increasingly marginalized around the world. California, with its disproportionately large share of American death-row inmates, announces an end to the death penalty. The year? 1972. That’s when the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty inconsistent with the state’s constitutional prohibition of cruel or unusual punishments—only to have the death penalty restored a year later through popular initiative and legislation.
On Wednesday, again, California walked back its commitment to the death penalty. Though not full-fledged abolition, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on capital punishment lasting as long as his tenure in office, insisting that the California death penalty has been an “abject…

Texas: Father fights to save his son from death penalty after he killed his wife and youngest son in 2003

From left, Kevin, Tricia, Thomas and Kent Whitaker appear in this undated family photo.
'I know Tricia and Kevin would not want him to be executed', says Kent Whitaker

The father of a man who murdered his mother and younger brother is pleading Texas officials for a stay of execution. 

Kent Whitaker – who survived the 2003 ambush that killed his wife, Tricia, and his 19-year-old son, Kevin – said his eldest son was a reformed person.

Thomas “Bart” Whitaker enlisted an associate to lie in wait at the family suburban home and murder them as they stepped through the door 15 years ago.

Now 38, Bart Whitaker is on death row in Texas and is set to be executed on 22 February.

His 69-year-old father, told The American Statesman he ”had seen too much killing already” and did not want to see his eldest “executed right there in front of his eyes”.

“I know Tricia and Kevin would not want him to be executed”, he added.

In a impassioned clemency letter, Mr Whitaker’s lawyer said he was in a unique position to call for a stay of execution because he witnessed the killing and was himself attacked.

“He watched his son, Kevin, walk into the house, heard the first and fatal shot, and saw his son’s fallen body in their darkened home,” the letter said,

“He heard Tricia’s last, wet coughs as Kent himself lay dying from his own gunshot wound.”

Killing the 38-year-old would “permanently compound the suffering and grief of the remaining victim,” the letter said.

“There is no reason for this particular execution to take place. No one close to the people involved in this case want it to happen. Some passionately oppose it. Others simply wish their lives could be restored to the time before the crime."

“It is only the state of Texas , through its employees and representatives, that mechanically marches forward onto the date of death.”

Mr Whittaker believed that the man who planned and enlisted friends to help execute his son and wife in 2003 was already gone, the letter said. 

“The belief that the execution will fulfil justice is misinformed. The planned execution is far too late. Bart Whitaker is already dead," it said.

“At some point in time only God can identify, the demented mind and tortured spirit of Bart Whitaker evaporated from our world. In his place, a genuinely good young man resides who, even as this request is written, continues to live the life of his son.”

Source: The Independent, Harriet Agerholm , January 19, 2018

➤ Related content: Texas man with scheduled execution uses letters from fellow death row inmates to argue for reprieve

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?