Friday, February 12, 2010

Spare female officer's killer, anti-execution group says

Spare female officer's killer, anti-execution group says

Staff photo by TODD DAVIS
Martin Grossman, shown in a Pinellas courtroom Jan. 20, is scheduled to be executed Tuesday.

By MARK DOUGLAS News Channel 8

Published: February 12, 2010

Peggy Park

A coalition of death penalty opponents is weighing in on the scheduled execution of Martin Grossman, who has spent 26 years on Florida's death row in the beating and shooting death of Florida wildlife officer Peggy Park.

In a conference call organized by Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, opponents of Grossman's execution say it would be cruel and unusual punishment for the state to carry out the death warrant signed by Gov. Charlie Crist.

Grossman is scheduled for lethal injection 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Florida State Prison near Starke. The Florida Supreme Court has denied an appeal by Grossman's lawyers.

Mark Elliot of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty said he was living in Pinellas County at the time of the murder.

"I remember very well the shock and the grief that spread throughout the community as the news came out," Elliot said. He called Park's murder "a terrible tragedy."

"Peggy Park died doing what she loved," Elliot said.

Park was killed in a wooded area of North Pinellas on Dec. 13, 1984, after a furious struggle with Grossman and another teen, Thayne Nathan Taylor.

Investigators said Grossman struck Park 20 times in the head with a flashlight and then shot the officer in the back of her head with her own .357 Magnum service revolver.

Park was 26 at the time of her death.

Elliot said Taylor served three years in prison for his role and "later committed suicide out of guilt."

Ed Werner, who represents the Committee to Save Martin Grossman, singled out Gov. Charlie Crist for criticism because he signed Grossman's death warrant.

"It's clear the governor did not get the memo that Jewish blood is no longer cheap," Werner said.

A reporter later asked Werner if he was suggesting Crist is anti-Semitic.

"We're not sure," Werner said.

Other activists on the call sought to distance themselves from the accusation and focused on what they perceive as a wrongful application of the death penalty.

They say Park's murder was not premeditated. They argue Grossman, with a low IQ of 77, has unspecified mental problems. They also say he was not adequately represented at his trial.

Other courts have rejected those arguments on appeal. One of Grossman's trial lawyers is now a federal magistrate.

Grossman's spiritual advisor Rabbi Menachem Katz said Grossman is deeply remorseful.

"Countless times over the last 15 years Martin has told me that how terrible he feels that he took a life," Katz said in a statement read on the conference call.

"He feels deep pain and sorrow on a daily basis."

Elliot presented a letter from Elie Wiesel, holocaust survivor and famed human rights activist, asking the governor to spare Grossman's life.

"Everything I believe in compels me to join those who urge you to commute the death sentence of Martin Grossman," Wiesel said in the letter from Boston University, which was dated Thursday.

Reporter Mark Douglas can be reached at (727) 451-2333 (727) 451-2333.

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