A Florida priest murdered last year has appealed from beyond the grave for his alleged killer to be shown mercy. Reverend Rene Robert enshrined his opposition to the death penalty in a letter he wrote 22 years ago, in which he apparently foresaw his own killing. The Catholic priest’s note requested that whoever took his life be spared execution “no matter how heinous their crime or how much I may have suffered”. Bishops have petitioned the court to drop capital punishment in the case. The body of 71-year-old Fr Robert, of St Augustine, Florida, was found riddled with bullets in woods in Georgia in April 2016. Authorities say he was killed days earlier by a man, Steven Murray, whom he had been trying to help for months. In 1995, the priest signed a “Declaration of Life” document, which was witnessed and notarised by a lawyer. “I request that the person found guilty of homicide for my killing not be subject to or put in jeopardy of the death penalty under any circumstances,” wrote Fr Robert. The note had remained in his personnel file at his own insistence, said Catholic bishops, who are protesting against the prosecutor’s decision to seek capital punishment for his killer. Fr Robert devoted his life to helping society’s most troubled people, including convicts and the mentally afflicted, say friends. The prosecutor, Augusta Judicial Circuit District Attorney Ashley Wright, has cited four aggravating factors in her decision to seek the death penalty if the accused is convicted.

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