Jewish death row inmate executed

Martin Grossman, who murdered 26-year-old Florida wildlife officer Margaret Park in 1984 has been executed by lethal injection in Florida

By Paul Berger, February 17, 2010
Martin Grossman

Martin Grossman

A Jewish man on death row used his final words to express remorse for a murder he committed 25 years ago.

Martin Grossman, 45, was asked if he wanted to make a final statement minutes before his execution on Tuesday.

Witnesses included relatives and friends of murdered wildlife officer Margaret Park.

“I would like to extend my heartfelt remorse to the victim’s family,” Martin Grossman said from the execution chamber of Florida State Prison.

“I fully regret everything that occurred that night. Everything that was done, whether I remember everything or not, I accept responsibility.”

Grossman then said the Sh’ma and closed his eyes. Fifteen minutes later he was dead.

The details of Grossman’s final minutes were recounted by Gretl Plessinger, a spokesman for Florida Department of Corrections, who was present at the execution.

Ms Plessinger said that Grossman, who refused the anti-anxiety drug diazepam ahead of his execution, was calm throughout the process.

“Throughout everything he was compliant, calm, polite and he seemed to be resolved to the fact that his execution was impending,” Ms Plessinger said.

Ms Plessinger was standing in an observation room with almost twenty people.

They included murder victim Margaret Park’s mother Peggy Park, sister Betsy and brother Stephen. A Chabad rabbi, Nochum Kurinsky, was also present.

Ms Plessinger said a curtain to the execution chamber was lifted at precisely 6pm.

The warden made one final check to ensure there was no stay of execution. Then, Mr Grossman said his final words and closed his eyes.

The first drug to be administered was sodium pentothal, which rendered Grossman unconscious. Next, he was injected with a paralytic, pancuronium bromide. Finally, a lethal dose of potassium chloride stopped his heart. He was pronounced dead at 6.17pm.

Ms Plessinger said the observation room was quiet throughout the execution. “No one speaks in that room,” she said.

Earlier, Grossman had spent the morning with an aunt and two friends. In the afternoon, he was visited by Rabbi Menachem Katz, who has been ministering to Grossman for the past 15 years.

Rabbi Katz sat outside Grossman’s cell from 1pm to 4pm, said Ms Plessinger. The two men prayed.
His final meal was a chicken sandwich, a banana cream cookie, a peanut butter cookie, and a fruit punch, ordered from the prison canteen.

Martin Grossman murdered 26-year-old Florida wildlife officer Margaret Park in 1984.

Ms Park disturbed Grossman, then 19, and a 17-year-old friend, shooting a stolen handgun in woodland.
When Ms Park tried to radio for help Grossman attacked her. During the struggle he shot her once in the head with her own gun.

In the past week, a coalition of American Orthodox rabbis, Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Yonah Metzger, and Archbishop Fernando Filoni, writing on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI, pleaded with Florida Governor Charlie Crist for clemency.

Grossman’s lawyers also made a last-ditch appeal to the Supreme Court. Following the execution, Margaret Park’s sister Betsy issued a statement on behalf of her family, expressing regret that it had taken 25 years for “final justice” to have been served.

“We came here today hoping for closure and an end to the years of reminders of how Peggy died overshadowing the memories of how she lived,” Ms Park said. “I believe we realized that hope today.”

There are currently almost 400 inmates on Florida’s death row. Twenty of them are Jewish.

Last updated: 11:08am, February 17 2010