Florida priest pleaded to save life of man accused of killing him

A Florida priest pleaded to spare the life of his killer more than 20 years before his murder.

Rene Robert, a Catholic priest in St. Johns County, Florida, had always opposed capital punishment. He would bring his congregation together to pray for inmates on Death Row and for Florida to abolish the death penalty, according to The Daily Beast.

In 1995, Robert signed a "Declaration of Life," that said, "Should I die as a result of a violent crime, I request that the person or persons found guilty of homicide for my killing not be subject to or put in jeopardy of the death penalty under any circumstance, no matter how heinous their crime or how much I have suffered," The Augusta Chronicle reported.

In April, 21 years later, Robert was murdered, allegedly by Steven Murray, a repeat offender who Robert tried to rehabilitate. Murray is facing the death penalty, according to The Daily Beast.

Robert’s Declaration of Life has no real weight in court. It has more of a “moral significance,” according to The Chronicle.

“It’s really hard to say, ultimately, how much weight the Declaration of Life will have in the case,” Ryan Swingle, one of Murray’s defense lawyers, told The Daily Beast. “I think it’s a really important indication of what Father Robert would have wanted to see happen. I think all parties involved should give it a lot of consideration.”

The Clergy declared Robert missing in April 2016 when he didn’t show up for a funeral service, which was unusual for him, according to The Daily Beast.

Days later, police spotted Murray driving Robert's car, which initiated a car chase. The chase ended with Murray's arrest and Murray bringing the police to a Georgia property where they found Robert's remains, according to The Chronicle.

Since then, Murray said he deserves forgiveness.

“They’ll forgive me because he was a man of God and forgiveness is forgiveness,” Murray said during an April court appearance. “I have mental problems, and I lost control of myself, and I apologize.”

Robert’s family wants to follow his wishes and hopes Murray doesn’t face the death penalty, The Chronicle reported.

“I know my brother would be proud of me for saying this: I don’t want him to get the death penalty now,” Deborah Bedard, Robert’s sister, told The Chronicle. “We weren’t brought up to hate people and I don’t hate Steven; I’m very, very angry, but that is subsiding.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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