Death row inmate requests tefillin

By Paul Berger, February 4, 2010
Martin Grossman: lethal injection

Martin Grossman: lethal injection

In ten days, prisoner 089742, Martin Grossman, will leave his 12ft x 7ft cell on Florida’s death row.

Grossman will be strapped to a gurney, wheeled to the execution chamber at Florida State Prison, and hooked up to a heart monitor. Then, at 6pm, he will be given a lethal injection.

Grossman, 45, is on death row for murdering a Florida wildlife officer in 1984.

After years of legal wrangling, Florida governor Charlie Crist finally signed his death warrant last month.

Rabbi Menachem Katz, of the Aleph Institute, an Orthodox group that supports Jewish prisoners, has been visiting Grossman for 15 years. He said that Grossman had been doing teshuvah — repentance — ever since his crime.

“Every single day he has remorse for his actions,” said Rabbi Katz. “It’s a daily part of his life.”

He added that Grossman put on tefillin during a visit earlier this month and that he continues to practise Judaism whenever possible. According to Rabbi Katz, Grossman, who claims he was high on mind-altering drugs at the time of the murder, was coping well.

“He’s strong, very strong. He’s putting on a good show.”

Rabbi Katz accused Governor Crist of a “politically motivated” execution.

Mr Crist, a Republican, is running for a Florida Senate seat this year. Lately, his Republican rival, Marco Rubio, has made significant gains in the polls.

“He definitely killed a police officer,” said Rabbi Katz, of Grossman. “No one is advocating he be allowed out. But there are hundred of thousands of people who commit murder and they don’t get the death penalty. Life in prison is adequate punishment.”

Grossman will be the 25th person to be executed in Florida in the past 10 years.

He was 19 when he and a 17-year-old friend drove to remote woodland to shoot a stolen handgun. The pair were caught by state wildlife officer, Margaret “Peggy” Park. Grossman is said to have pleaded with Ms Park, 26, not to report them because Grossman was on parole at the time for burglary.

When Ms Park went to her car to radio for help, Grossman, who is 6ft 4ins, grabbed her torch and beat her over the head 20 or 30 times. His friend also attacked her. At one point, she managed to reach her gun and to fire a shot. But Grossman wrestled it from her and shot her in the back of the head.

He was arrested two weeks later. His accomplice, Thayne Taylor, served three years in prison.

In a last-ditch attempt to spare his life, his lawyers last week appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, claiming that argued that his previous attorney should have requested a mental examination during his trial.

They also claimed that he might be mentally incompetent, which would make the death penalty unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, Rabbi Katz is trying to pressure Governor Crist to give Grossman a clemency hearing.

Grossman is due to be executed on February 16.

Last updated: 11:18am, February 17 2010