In a final statement, Grossman expressed remorse to the family of Peggy Park, the Florida wildlife officer he beat and shot to death more than 25 years ago.
“I would like to extend my heartfelt remorse to the victim’s family,” Grossman said. “I fully regret everything that happened that night, everything that was done, whether I remember everything or not. I accept responsibility.”
“I would like to say a prayer,” the 45-year-old man added, then, lying on a gurney, hands strapped to arm boards and with needles in both arms, he began reciting a Jewish prayer called the Schma.
It is the most sacred prayer in Judaism and the first prayer that Jewish children learn. Among its verses: “The Lord is our God, God is one.”
Park’s brother, sister and mother were among the 20 witnesses to the execution. They were seated directly in front of Grossman, who was visible through a window.
The Vatican, Jewish leaders as far away as Israel, and thousands of petitioners called for a stop to the execution on several grounds, including questions about whether the slaying was premeditated, Grossman’s diminished IQ and his remorse for the crime.
Grossman’s religious adviser, Rabbi Menachem Katz, was with him in his cell throughout the day.
Grossman took a shower and dressed at 4 p.m. He ordered no special last meal, just food from the prison cantina – a fried chicken sandwich, fruit punch, and banana cookies, said Gretl Plessinger, spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections.
“He is calm, compliant and resolved to the fact his execution is going to happen,” Plessinger said before he was walked to the death chamber.
Grossman’s final visit was 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. today with his aunt, Rosal Melton, and two female friends, Sharon Lion and Francine Whitehouse. The first two hours, a visitors window separated them and the last hour was a contact visit.
Earlier Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused today to block Grossman’s execution.
He was sentenced to death for murdering Park on Dec. 13, 1984, as she patrolled a wooded area of Pinellas County now known as the Brooker Creek Preserve.
She came across Grossman, then a 19-year-old high school dropout, and a 17-year-old accomplice. They had a stolen gun. Grossman had already been to prison for grand theft and breaking-and-entering. He didn’t want to go back. They beat Park with a flashlight and shot her with her service revolver.
Last-minute efforts to spare Grossman’s life extended to the Vatican, which sent a letter to Gov. Charlie Crist saying “the prisoner has repented and is now a changed person.” The letter was sent in response to a request from Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen, chief Rabbi of Haifa, Israel.
Grossman is the 69th person executed in Florida since the death penalty was reinstated in 1979, and the 25th by lethal injection. He was the fifth inmate executed under Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who has been in office for three years.
Crist signed Grossman’s death warrant Jan. 12. Since that time, his office has received about 49,000 letters, telephone calls or e-mails, according to a spokesman.
Below is a statement from Agudath Israel on the execution of Martin Grossman
An Orthodox Jewish organization that had been among several urging Florida Governor Charlie Crist to spare the life of Martin Grossman, and pursuing possible legal avenues to stay implementation of the death penalty, expressed “deep anguish” over his execution this evening.
Mr. Grossman was convicted of killing Ms. Margaret Parks, a Florida Wildlife Officer, in 1984, when he was 19 years old. In advocating for his life to be spared, the Jewish groups acknowledged the horror of his crime and expressed their deepest sympathy for the family of his victim. At the same time, they called attention to the fact that the murder was an act of panic, not premeditation; that Mr. Grossman’s low IQ and impaired mental state were not given proper recognition in his death sentence; and that Mr. Grossman has not only conducted himself as a model prisoner since his incarceration some 25 years ago but showed profound remorse and regret for his actions.
“The tragic news out of Florida,” said Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Agudath Israel of America’s executive vice president, “leaves us feeling deep anguish and sorrow.
“Mr. Grossman’s execution has hit our community very hard. He was a fellow Jew and so we saw him as a brother. Countless members of our community had telephoned, e-mailed and faxed the Governor’s office pleading that Mr. Grossman’s sentence be commuted to life in prison. Unfortunately, our hopes were dashed.
“There are many lessons one might draw from this terrible tragedy, but in the end we acknowledge ‘Boruch Dayan Ha’emes’ – ‘Blessed be the true Judge’.”