Before Martin Edward Grossman was put to death by lethal injection at 6:17 p.m. yesterday, he said, “I would like to extend my heartfelt remorse to the victim’s family. I fully regret everything that occurred that night. Everything that was done, whether I remember everything or not, I accept responsibility.”
Grossman then said Shema and closed his eyes as a three-chemical cocktail began flowing into his body just after 6 p.m.. His chest stopped moving at 6:04 p.m. and a doctor pronounced him dead 13 minutes later.
Grossman was condemned for shooting and killing wildlife officer Margaret “Peggy” Park, 26, on Dec. 13, 1984. Park’s 79-year-old mother went against a doctor’s suggestion and traveled from Ohio to attend the execution, as did other family members.
The execution came after a whirlwind day in which death penalty opponents and religious leaders – Jewish and Catholic – pleaded with Gov. Charlie Crist to halt the execution.
Crist said his office was the target of “almost an outcry” of nearly 50,000 e-mails, phone calls and letters from people urging him to spare Grossman’s life. “We’ve been swamped,” Crist said.
“I’m getting calls from people who are asking me to stay this execution,” Crist said, “and then once I inquired, ‘Do you know what the facts are?’ I find that they unfortunately do not . . . Sometimes the story can almost get ahead of the facts.”
Crist said he was standing on a Miami International Airport runway tarmac Tuesday afternoon when a close friend of his wife called his cell phone and asked him to halt the execution. Crist said she changed her mind after he described how the killing occurred. The woman, whom Crist declined to identify, said, according to the governor: “I’m glad you shared what the real facts are. I’m sorry to have taken your time.”
Crist said a group of rabbis and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz were among those urging the execution be stopped. “The sincerity of their message is without question,” Crist said. “I’ve reached the conclusion that justice must be done.”
In a speech to small business owners that was mostly about the state of Florida’s economy, Crist, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, went into great detail on the circumstances of the case, including describing the killer as “blowing her brains out.”
The governor said he spoke Monday with former Gov. Bob Martinez, who signed Grossman’s initial death warrant two decades ago. “I was just seeking his advice, because it’s always a good idea,” Crist said.
A spokesman for the governor said that by Friday night the office had received more than 9,443 e-mails and more than 7,849 phone calls about the Grossman case.
“Signing a death warrant is a responsibility that Governor Crist takes very seriously,” spokesman Sterling Ivey wrote in an e-mail to the St. Petersburg Times, “and the warrant for Martin Grossman was signed after a careful review …”