Friday, February 12, 2010

Effort to Save Death Row Inmate Gains Steam

Effort to Save Death Row Inmate Gains Steam

by Hillel Fendel

( Jewish groups and individuals have begun a last-minute campaign for a 60-day delay in the execution of a Jewish killer in Florida.

The National Council of Young Israel, the Orthodox Union, Agudath Israel of America, the Israel Law Center, Lubavitch International and others are asking Florida Governor Charlie Crist to grant a 60-day stay, in order that evidence can be gathered to make a case for clemency for death-row inmate Martin Grossman.

Grossman, 44, is scheduled to be executed this coming Tuesday at 6 p.m. With an IQ of 77 (borderline retarded), a history of drug addiction, and having dropped out of high school at the age of 15 – after his father died and his mother became dysfunctional – he was convicted of killing a Florida Wildlife Officer when he was 19 years old. He has been in prison since then.

Request for Clemency
Israel Law Center head Attorney Nitzana Darshan-Leitner is one of several individuals and groups who have written Gov. Crist, asking for clemency. "There is no public or social interest that will be served by Martin Grossman's execution that cannot be similarly served by granting him clemency and commuting his sentence to life in prison without parole," she wrote.

An open letter from the National Council of Young Israel (NCYI) states that Grossman committed the crime "while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and in an act of panic, not premeditation. He has conducted himself as a model prisoner since his incarceration some 25 years ago and has shown profound remorse and regret for his actions."

NCYI notes that Governor Crist has indicated that he would consider staying the execution: "It is important that [he] hear from the grassroots as well - certainly from people who live or spend significant time in Florida, but even from non-Floridians. His e-mail address is … and he can be faxed at 850-487-0801 850-487-0801. Letters and calls should [ask] the Governor to take into account Mr. Grossman's youth and impairment at the time of the crime, and his good behavior and remorse in the years since." An online petition can be signed at

Rabbi: "He Turned His Life Around"
Rabbi Katz of the Aleph Institute, who has been Martin’s spiritual advisor for the past 15 years, states that Grossman has turned his life around and struggles daily for repentance. "He is now a solid, humble human being, far from the disturbed youth who shot Margaret Parks over 25 years ago," Rabbi Katz says.

Harvard Law Professor Alan M. Dershowitz ‎has joined the cause as well, writing as follows:

"Even those who strongly support capital punishment would limit it to recidivists or people who ‎commit the most heinous of crimes. Martin Grossman fits neither of those categories. He does ‎not belong on death row. His crime, committed when he was a teenager, was unplanned, ‎unpremeditated and impulsive - the product of a serious mental illness, that can now be proved ‎by medical technology that was unavailable at the time of his sentencing. He has been in prison ‎for more than a quarter of a century, during which time he has been a model prisoner who has ‎shown great remorse for what he did. All that he is seeking now is a 60-day postponement of his ‎execution, so that his supporters can marshall the evidence and present his case for clemency. No ‎one should be rushed to execution while doubts remain unresolved. Justice demands that he be ‎given the 60 days to prove that he does not deserve to die at the hands of the state."
Only 3% of people convicted of murder are sentenced to death, the organizers of the Grossman effort say: "Although any murder is despicable, capital punishment is generally reserved for cold, calculated, heinous murders – whereas this is a case of drugged up, mildly retarded teenager who panicked."

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