The U.S. Supreme Court refused Tuesday to block the execution of a 45-year-old man convicted of murdering a state wildlife officer in 1984 when she found him with a stolen gun.
The court’s ruling clears the way for the execution of Martin Edward Grossman, who is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m. at Florida State Prison. He was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of 26-year-old Margaret “Peggy” Park, who was killed on Dec. 13, 1984.
Authorities said Grossman beat Park with a flashlight and shot her in the back of her head after she found the then-19-year-old and 17-year-old Thayne Taylor with a stolen handgun while she was patrolling a wooded area in Pinellas County. Grossman, who was on probation for a burglary, asked Park to not turn him in, but she radioed the sheriff’s office.
Park managed to fire a wild shot with her gun and kick Taylor in the groin, but Grossman wrestled away the gun and fired a shot into the back of Park’s head.
Two weeks later, authorities arrested Grossman and Taylor.
Grossman was convicted in October 1985 and the jury recommended a death sentence. Taylor was convicted of third-degree murder.
A coalition of Orthodox Jewish groups had appealed for clemency on Grossman’s behalf.
“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,” the groups, including the National Council of Young Israel, Agudath Israel of America and the Orthodox Union, said in a statement. Grossman, they argued, should “be permitted to serve his debt to society by serving the rest of his life in prison.”
Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger, citing “new evidence,” also wrote to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, according to a letter publicized by Yeshiva World News.
“I am convinced that there is sufficient cause to at least delay this execution until all evidence and legal arguments are presented,” he wrote.
With Grossman sitting on death row for decades, the groups sprung into action on January 12, when Crist signed Grossman’s death warrant.
So far, more than 24,000 people have signed an online petition on behalf of Grossman, and a Web site, www.savemartingrossman.com, includes medical reports outlining his low IQ and unspecified mental problems, as well as letters from family members, death penalty opponents and even Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, who wrote, “These days, death is winning too many battles and life imprisonment is a harsh enough punishment.”
Rabbi Menachem Katz of the Aleph Institute, who has counseled Grossman for 15 years, said the inmate is “trying to be as strong as possible. He takes full responsibility for his behavior and actions. He has unbelievable amounts of remorse and he believes in God and hopes for life. He’s praying for a miracle.”