Episcopal priest has asked for mercy for Georgia death row inmate

An Episcopal priest has asked for mercy for Georgia death row inmate set to die Thursday.

The Reverend Allan Sandlin asked the Ga. Board of Pardons and Parole, to commute Robert Earl Butts Jr.'s death sentence to life in prison.

Sandlin, a priest at St. Martin in the Fields Church in Atlanta, said he got to know Butts three years ago when another clergy asked him to visit Butts. His visits have continued every month since.

 Robert Earl Butts Jr.

Robert Earl Butts Jr.

"Robert is a remarkable man. From the very beginning of our friendship, I’ve been continually surprised by Robert’s upbeat attitude toward life. Under very the hard circumstances of living on Death Row, he stays positive and manages somehow to lift the spirits of all who come into contact with him," Sandlin said in a letter to the Board. "It surprises me, he surprises me, with how readily he finds and shares hope—and even joy—in the world when his own corner of it is so dark. Every time I see him, I leave feeling better about the world than when I came in. That is, to say the least, not what I expected."

"His is a deeply Christian approach to friendship. Whenever Robert joins us in the barber shop on Death Row for holy communion, I feel grateful to have accompanied him on his journey of faith."

"Robert is also a wonderful artist. .... When I look at [Butts] photos and drawings, and when I think of the kind and gentle person I know, I find it very difficult to believe Robert capable of killing anyone. Robert leads a purposeful life. I’ve witnessed his growing love for Christ through his art, his concern for his fellow inmates, and his care for his family and friends. I hope you will commute his sentence to life, at a minimum, if not pardon him. The God I know would show mercy beyond measure to Robert."

The Board will decide today whether Butts will die for the 1996 murder of Donovan Corey Parks.