J.J. Goldberg

'Amnesty' Joins Rabbis To Save a Jew from Execution Next Tuesday in Florida

By J.J. Goldberg

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The heads of seven major Orthodox organizations wrote a joint letter to Florida Governor Charlie Crist on February 9, asking for clemency for a Jewish man, Martin Grossman, 45, who is scheduled to die by lethal injection next Tuesday, February 16, at 6:00 p.m.

Separately, some 200 Jewish and non-Jewish organizations appealed to Crist on February 9 to stay the execution for 60 days to allow time for a comprehensive clemency application to be prepared. As of this writing, Crist had not responded to either appeal.

Grossman was convicted in 1985 of killing a Florida Wildlife Officer, Margaret Park, 26, during a struggle over a gun. Grossman was 19 at the time. Park was on patrol in a wooded area in Pinellas County on December 13, 1984, when she came across Grossman and a friend, Thayne Taylor, 17, shooting a stolen gun (some reports say they had “obtained” or “found” it). After she confiscated the gun, according to state records, Grossman “pleaded” with her not to report him because he was in violation of probation and would be returned to prison. He had been released in July after serving 14 months of a two-year sentence for robbery in neighboring Pasco County, and both leaving the county and possessing a handgun were violations.

When Park began to radio in a report, Grossman panicked by most accounts, grabbed her flashlight and began beating her in the head. Taylor joined in the fight. Park pulled out her own gun and fired one shot. Then Grossman grabbed the gun away from her and shot her once in the head. The pair were arrested December 25 after telling two friends about the incident.

Taylor was convicted of third-degree murder, sentenced to seven years and released to community service after two years and 10 months. Grossman was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death.

Grossman had dropped out of school after eighth grade. According to his advocates, he had an IQ of 77, was addicted to drugs and alcohol and was high at the time of the arrest.

A psychiatrist who evaluated him [in prison] concluded, from his psychological and medical condition, that he could not have formed the intent to kill.

A petition submitted to the governor

argues that the death sentence meted out to him is disproportionate in the extreme and that his defense was inadequate. Only one percent of murder sentences end in capital punishment, crimes commonly referred to as “the worst of the worst.”

The petition further argues that Martin’s crime, considering the lack of premeditation, his drug addiction, his IQ level, and several other compelling factors does not qualify for the death penalty, and that the court ignored mitigating circumstances. Only four of thirty-three available defense witnesses were used in the sentencing phase.

Additionally, there are allegations of prosecutorial misconduct as well. A fellow prisoner and key witness for the government swears that he lied at trial, and that he was rewarded by having his own charges dropped. Martin Grossman’s appeals regarding these issues have been rejected without hearings, but they could be considered in a clemency petition.

Grossman has submitted at least 15 appeals in the 24 years since his conviction, including seven to the Florida supreme court and two to the U.S. Supreme Court. His original execution date in 1990 was stayed, but courts have refused to hear his appeals since then.

Here’s Grossman in his own words, in a 2008 letter to his aunt, describing spending another Hanukkah on death row, praying for his own “maccabean miracle.”

In addition to the seven Orthodox organizations (which range from the Orthodox Union to Agudath Israel and groups representing Chabad and Satmar), campaigns are being waged on Grossman’s behalf by Amnesty International, Amnesty’s Florida branch, the international Catholic peace movement Pax Christi and, Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (in a joint petition campaign with Chabad and Aleph Institute).

Crist is seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, but his shoo-in campaign has been slowed by a challenge from the right. Some observers say his scheduling of an execution date for Grossman is part of an effort to shake his moderate image and woo the party’s conservative wing.

Jewish groups are urging “concerned citizens” to call or email Crist at 1-850-488-7146 / Charlie.Crist@eog.myflorida.com.

Amnesty offers guidelines for petitioners to frame their appeals effectively:

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:

  • Explaining that you are not seeking to excuse the killing of Margaret Park;
  • Noting Martin Grossman’s young age at the time of the crime, and that he has spent 24 years on death row;
  • Expressing concern that the jury heard no expert mental health testimony, noting the post-conviction assessment;
  • Calling for clemency for Martin Grossman and for commutation of his death sentence.

APPEALS TO: Governor Charlie Crist Office of the Governor The Capitol 400 S. Monroe St. Tallahassee FL 32399-0001 Fax: 1 850 487 0801 Email: Charlie.Crist@MyFlorida.com Salutation: Dear Governor Crist

Or, for simplicity, online petitions can be signed here and here.

Remember: Next Tuesday…

Next step: Petition your favorite major Jewish organization, or your neighborhood rabbi, to keep up the good fight – but not to stop with Martin Grossman. Go to bat for more death-row inmates, even if they’re not Jewish. Organizations like Amnesty International and Pax Christi are working alongside the Orthodox Union, Agudath Israel and other Jewish groups to save Martin Grossman, not because he’s “one of theirs,” but because it’s the right thing to do. The Jewish community can do no less. The Jewish community, as a community, must stand for what’s right, and must be seen to stand for what’s right.

Consider what our sages had to say about capital punishment:

A Sanhedrin that puts a man to death once in seven years is called destructive [also translated “murderous” and “bloodthirsty”]. Rabbi Eleazer ben Azariah says: even once in seventy years. Rabbi Akiba and Rabbi Tarfon say: had we been in the Sanhedrin none would ever have been put to death. Rabban Simeon ben Gamaliel says: they would have multiplied shedders of blood in Israel. (Mishnah Makkot 1:10)

Now consider these thoughts from Amnesty:

The USA has carried out 1,193 executions since resuming judicial killing in 1977. Florida accounts for 68 of these executions.

There have been five executions in the USA this year.

What would Rabbi Akiba say?

Howard Fri. Feb 12, 2010

We pursue sick and dying 90-year old men to the ends of the earth to bring them to justice for murders they committed during the Holocaust 65 years ago.

This miscreant murdered a young woman in cold blood. He was a criminal since his early teens. Why should he get a pass?

Shoded Yam Fri. Feb 12, 2010

Well said, Howard.

daniel Fri. Feb 12, 2010

I am a Jew and a police officer who is very much in favor of the death penalty. The murderer's religious identity is not important here. He killed a woman who was only trying to do her job. As far as I'm concerned he should have been executed by Florida a long time ago. I don't understand why Jewish groups are making an issue of this. There are many worthy Jewish causes. This is not one of them.

Eagle Ashcroft Sat. Feb 13, 2010

I am an ethnic Jew and a retired law enforcement and judical officer as the way I see it is this man Jewish or not murdered a woman who was merely doing her job because he and his friend were already breaking the law when the park officer called it in. The only thing I see wrong is he should have been convicted on second degree murder as first degree murder is planned murder in advance and according to what I have read he murdered in the passion of a crime without preplanning and therefore it was second degree murder and he should have been sentenced to life without parole instead of being convicted of a capital crime.

D McBragg Sat. Feb 13, 2010

He's a cop killer. He is fully capable of killing anyone else, therefore. Hang him high with no delay!

Ralph Sat. Feb 13, 2010

This is a jewish killer? And the Governor's name is "Crist"?

Well payback is a b****!

Deborah Sat. Feb 13, 2010

To execute Grossman, who has been dangling on "death row" since 24 years, is as much barbaric as the crime he committed. More especially so if it is only being carried out in order for some grasping, power hungry politicien to win a political campaign.

Grossman has served his time. I am so happy I do not live in such a country as the USA.

Yours very kindly.

Justin Sat. Feb 13, 2010

Deborah, what country are you from if I may ask? This murderer has not served his time. His sentence is death so basically the humane thing to do would have been to execute him many years ago. I couldn't care less about his feelings but I don't think it's right that American tax payers should be forced to foot the bill for this scumbag to get 3 hots and a cot for 24 years. While he's had 24 years to get up every morning and eat breakfast, to read his choice of literature and converse and visit with his loved ones Margaret Park hasn't. Her life was brutally taken because her continued existence inconvenienced him. Her family has had to live everyday thinking about that last kiss, that last hug, that last goodbye that they never thought would be the last. You seem to think that her murderer is the victim here and to me that logic is skewed beyond 90 degrees. I also assure you that his execution is nowhere near as barbaric as the murder he committed. While he will get religious comfort, warm words and slowly slip into a slumber from which he will not return his victim died with pain, agony and a fear which you may never know.

Justin Sat. Feb 13, 2010

I would also like to point out what is blatantly hitting me in the face. "The heads of seven major European organizations wrote a joint letter to Florida Governor Charlie Crist on February 9, asking for clemency for a White man, Martin Thompson, 45, who is scheduled to die by lethal injection next Tuesday, February 16, at 6:00 p.m." Had this paragraph and entire story been worded slightly differently the cries of HATE!, RACISTS! and NAZIS! would have been the overwhelming response. To simply point out this contradiction of justice will probably have me get some of these same hysterical buzzwords. If Jews want to stand up for each other, even the lowest elements among them, they have that right. What is sad, sick and twisted rolled up into one big ball is that white people of European heritage aren't afforded this same right without being hysterically denounced as racist, haters, wicked, bigots, etc. etc. The irony is it's these exact same Jewish groups who hypocritically lead the charge against white people for standing up for their own. It's ok for Jews to stand up for other Jews no matter the circumstance, but whites better not even think of doing the same or these groups will do everything to ruin you.

James Sat. Feb 13, 2010

I dont see how him being jewish should have anything to do with this. The man is a cop killer and he should die for it.

SC Sat. Feb 13, 2010

What religion was the murdered police officer?

Deborah Trinquet Sat. Feb 13, 2010

Dear Justin, I can assure you that I do not see this man as a victim. He committed a terrible crime, was found without doubt guilty of that crime then sentenced to death. However he was not put to death when he should have been. Therefore to put him to death now, 24 years later is a total mockery of Justice, not only for him but for HIS victim and her family.

Yours very kindly, Deborah

Gomar Hloykun Sat. Feb 13, 2010

" in a 2008 letter to his aunt, describing spending another Hanukkah on death row"... oh, how nice, he found religion in prison. I guess Mrs.Park's family doesnt mind at all spending Christmas for the last 24 years without her. Now what was the delay anyway?

Chana Ruchel Sat. Feb 13, 2010

I am a religious Jew but I am also a patriotic American and long-time supporter of police causes.

This guy killed a police officer. He committed a crime. If we as a society can pursue Holocaust war criminals to their sick and dying days, then this guy can die for his crime, too.

Do you expect me as a Jew to give him a free pass just because he is a Jew? To hell with that idea!

Dave Sun. Feb 14, 2010

Mr. Grossman's lawyers have been fighting this case for decades; they cannot then use the fact that they have delayed his execution as grounds that "it has taken too long".

He brutally murdered a law enforcement officer while committing a felony. This, under Florida law, counts as Felony Murder, which is Murder in the First Degree. He was also guilty of multiple "special circumstances", any of which merits the death penalty.

I have no objection to those who oppose the Death Penalty in all cases objecting to this execution. That is a consistent and honest position -- even if it is one I do not share.

But for politically conservative Jews and Jewish groups to lobby to spare a cop-killer solely because he is Jewish (and make no bones about it, if he were not Jewish, these Orthodox organizations would not lift a finger) is hypocritical and reprehensible.

Sephardiman Sun. Feb 14, 2010

Well said Dave. My point exactly.

steve Mon. Feb 15, 2010

well said everybody but I have 1 question, if it is true that this guy has an IQ of 77 wouldn't that be murder with diminished responsibility? Does that also count as First degree Murder?

Doris Torres Mon. Feb 15, 2010

I think the execution should be stayed. Mr. Grossman poses no threat to anyone. Mr. Grossman has been in prison for nearly a quarter of a century, so what is the hurry to put him to death now.

Is the pressure on because Crist thinks the death of Mr. Grossman, will win him a few votes?

Mr. Taylor, Mr. Grossman's co-defendant, "joined in the fight" is now a free man.

Mr. Grossman should be freed as well.

He has served his time.

Even Ms. Parker would say so, if she could.

Dave Mon. Feb 15, 2010

Steve: No, it would not. His IQ is above the threshold at which it would be considered a factor.

Doris: How dare you claim to know what the victim would say. That is astoundingly disrespectful to her and to her family.

Gerry B Mon. Feb 15, 2010

I am tickled pink that the groysse rabonim (important rabbis) at Agudah are appealing for amnesty for this murderer. I'm willing to bet a twenty-dollar kosher roast beef sandwich that if this chap had broke into Agudah headquarter and stolen one of the rabbis' wallets, the groysse rabonim would be jumping up and down, waving their tstitsis in the air and demanding his immediate execution. It all depends on whose ox is gored, I guess.

Dave Mon. Feb 15, 2010

Steve: No, it would not. His IQ is above the threshold at which it would be considered a factor.

Doris: How dare you claim to know what the victim would say. That is astoundingly disrespectful to her and to her family.

Moloch HaMooves Wed. Feb 17, 2010

Martin Grossman was executed Tuesday evening, February 16th, by the state of Florida for the murder of Margaret Park, a 26-year old park ranger. I sincerely hope that it hurt like hell when they stuck the needle in, and it hurt even worse when the poisons began to course thru his system, finally shutting down his heart. "The wheels of justice grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine."

Sephardiman Wed. Feb 17, 2010

A few final thoughts on Martin Grossman: 1) Personally, I found the posture of Agudath Yisrael & NCYI distasteful in the entire Grossman affair. I can respect Pope Benedict's call for clemency because it was based on a universal abhorrence of the death penalty. The attempt to save Grossman, largely because he was "caught murdering while Jewish" brought out the worst in his Jewish advocates not the best as Agudath Yisrael leader Rabbi Zweibel suggests. 2) As others have pointed out it seems odd that Grossman garnered this much sympathy. I recall in 1999 or 2000 seeing a picture in the "New York Times" of the local Chabad holding a prayer gathering outside of the Florida prison, while a Jewish inmate was being put to death and there was no outcry on his behalf. Not to mention that the "Gdolei HaTorah" were curiously silent when the Rosenbergs went to the electric chair in 1953 nor have any of them supported the excellent work their sons are doing for peace and justice through the vehicle of their private charity the "Rosenberg Fund for Children." 3) This tribal politics, "don't get too complacent or youl'l end up like the German Jews" mindset has always made me very uncomfortable. I saw it come out in my Chicago neighborhood in 2007 when many charedi rabbis raced to endorse an elderly incumbent, almost senile, city council representative making his re-election tantamount to a religious requirement. On many blogs last night there were people suggesting that Gov Crist allowed Grossman to die out of anti-semitic motives. This is to a large extent an artifact of the very insular religious education system the ultra-Orthodox are promulgating. I think it will backfire.

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