Former SHSU student sits on death row after losing appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court refused Tuesday to consider the appeal of a former Sam Houston State University student who sits on death row after pleading guilty to organizing the murder of his family in 2003.

Thomas Whitaker, now 37-years-old, sent his attorneys to the Supreme Court as a last resort after losing a federal court appeal earlier this year. He is claiming his trial lawyers were inadequate and that Fort Bend County prosecutors engaged in misconduct by improperly referencing his discussion of a plea deal that fell through.

Whitaker offered to take responsibility for the murders and take a life sentence, but his attorneys said prosecutors rejected it because no remorse of the crime was shown.

“I’ve made some really bad mistakes in my life,” Whitaker said in a 2012 interview. “I was a very messed up young man.”

In a plot to collect a one-million-dollar inheritance, Whitaker took his family out to dinner to celebrate his claimed “graduation” from SHSU. Investigators said he staged a fake burglary for when he and his family returned, even planning to have himself shot in the arm to draw attention away from himself.  His mother and brother were killed, but his father survived.

Evidence showed Whitaker was the mastermind behind the murders and that this was his third attempt to kill his family.

“I wanted them dead,” Whitaker said in another interview. “It was my idea.”

Whitaker never in fact graduated, but the registrar office confirms he did attend the University.

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