Stop an Execution

letter-447577_1280

The comments I read on the first sites and petition forms that I saw left me very uncomfortable and torn. The arguments were primitive, hopelessly parochial – to the point that they struck me as creating a chilul Hashem. Do we want to save a life BE”H at the expense of creating a chilul Hashem? (I have seen this time and time again. Frum Jews pack the courtroom at a sentencing hearing and say the most outlandish things, sometimes impacting the judge to move in the very opposite direction that they wanted.)

It doesn’t have to be that way. There is a tasteful and appropriate way to ask for clemency or review. Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zweibel articulated it perfectly in his mailing today, reproduced below. I hope that all will respond to this call.

No one need to have misgivings about asking for clemency. Other people from very different frames of reference will be making the same arguments. I friend of mine, decidedly outside the haredi and Agudah orbits, reminded me today that we knew Mike Farrell, the actor who played BJ Hunnicut decades ago on M*A*S*H (This was on a show that none of our readers ever watched, on a gadget called a television that none of us ever had.  In my case, I can actually say that I did not have a TV in that time, and saw not a single episode.) Mike is pretty far to the left, but a person of impressive and deep conviction. My friend emailed him, and learned that indeed, his chevrah know about the scheduled execution, and as implacable foes of the death penalty, are agitating against it. My guess is that they will also go the practical route, and ask for clemency, rather than froth at the mouth and attack the entire institution of capital punishment.

Rabbi Zweibel’s letter:

As you may know, a Jewish man is slated for execution – Rachmana litzlan! – in Florida next Tuesday. Martin Grossman was convicted of killing Margaret Parks, a Florida Wildlife Officer, in 1984, when he was 19 years old. He did so 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.

Agudath Israel has joined other Orthodox Jewish groups in asking Florida Governor Charlie Crist to grant clemency to Mr. Grossman, and we have also requested a meeting in person with Governor Crist to discuss the matter.

But it is important that the Governor 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 Charlie.Crist@eog.myflorida.com , his phone number is (850) 488-7146 and he can be faxed at 850-487-0801. Letters and calls should be polite pleas to 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. And the request should be that Mr. Grossman be permitted to serve his debt to society by serving the rest of his life in prison.

May we have happier occasions to demonstrate our achdus and ahavas Yisroel. And may our action here merit us such times.

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Bob Miller
5 years 6 months ago

Tzippi said, “I would like to think that the leadership would like nothing better than to have the confidence that if they would put up a united front for other causes, that everyone would listen.”

Leaders often have to say and do things not knowing what proportion of their followers will follow.

Aaron
5 years 6 months ago

Forgive my ignorance and illiteracy, but could someone provide sources in English that I could review concerning DovInBeitShemesh’s statement: “But the halacha is broader than this. A halachic analysis has to consider the Gemorah in Baba Metzia about Rebbi Eliezer turning Jewish robbers to the king to be executed. This is discussed by the Mabit and by the Bais Yosef (who in Choshen Mishpat concludes that it’s not assur). We have to consider Rambam saying that non-Jewish courts have the right to give the death penalty for any of the sheva mitzvos bnei noach even without witnesses or warnings. And we have to consider the psak of the Maharam mi’Rotenberg that saving a life (with all the importance that Chazal give to pidyon shevuyim) has to be balanced against the consequences that it will have in the future.”

Also, does pidyon shevuyim really apply to someone rightfully imprisoned for a crime? Given the not-so-ancient widespread practice of authorities imprisoning Jews — largely taking advantage of our mitzvah of pidyon shivuyim to secure considerable ransoms — this does not appear to be the practice in America and our behaving as if we were appealing to corrupt despots cannot raise opinions about us by our neighbors.

I am of the opinion that the way this was handled was anything but a kiddush Hashem and may well represent yet another case where a gadol (or gedolim) and organizations were misled by “notorious gatekeepers, who are known to color, filter, and distort.” (see http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2010/01/15/dismissing-dybbuks/) It is inconceivable to me that Agudah or any Rav would have made this argument and instigated this widespread public appeal had the victim been Jewish and the killer been named Timothy McVeigh or Ahmed Jihadi.

Tactically, I do not understand why Grossman wasn’t advised from the beginning to prioritize making amends with the victim’s family. I’m not sure there has ever been an execution over the objections of the family and friends most affected by the death. Case in point, the siblings of Kitty and José Menendez argued on behalf of not executing their nephews Lyle and Erik.

Last point, I find it difficult to accept that a 77 IQ correlates with “Mr. Grossman took several carefully planned steps to cover up this horrible crime. The weapon was buried, and Mr. Grossman attempted to burn his clothes and shoes, which were later disposed of in a nearby lake. The following day, Mr. Grossman thoroughly cleaned the van and changed its tires to mislead law enforcement.” How do you measure IQ accurately when there is considerable disincentive to score highly? Perhaps his real IQ was a bit closer to normal?

joe friday
5 years 6 months ago

The next scheduled execution if Melbert Ray Ford, on February 23. Like Grossman, it is a felony murder case. Also like Grossman, Ford has found religion in prison and has been a model prisoner for 25 years. Unlike Grossman, Ford claims he did not murder the victims, but rather was made the fall guy by his partner in crime who ratted him in exchange for a lighter sentence. Let’s see how many Jewish groups take up this cause.

tzippi
5 years 6 months ago

To Yossi Ginzburg, and where’s leadership: it is a lot easier to ask people to spend a few minutes sending in a form letter, or saying a few chapters of Tehillim, than to ask them to change their lives. I would like to think that the leadership would like nothing better than to have the confidence that if they would put up a united front for other causes, that everyone would listen. But we’re still in a pre-Messiah, imperfect world, with free will (in overdrive, as with the progression of galus, the hester panim – hiding of the face of G-d – just deepens).

Daniel Rubin
5 years 6 months ago

The Governors office e-mailed the following response. Has anyone heard a counter response to it?

Thank you for contacting me and sharing your concerns about the execution of Martin Grossman.

On December 13, 1984, Mr. Grossman violated the terms of his probation by leaving Pasco County and having a stolen firearm in his possession. In a routine stop, Florida Fish and Wildlife Officer Margaret Park found the weapon. When she reached for the radio in her patrol car to report him, Mr. Grossman attacked her with her own large flashlight, beating her over the head and shoulders 20 to 30 times. When Officer Park tried to fight back, Mr. Grossman took her .357 Magnum revolver and shot her in the back of the head, killing her.

Mr. Grossman took several carefully planned steps to cover up this horrible crime. The weapon was buried, and Mr. Grossman attempted to burn his clothes and shoes, which were later disposed of in a nearby lake. The following day, Mr. Grossman thoroughly cleaned the van and changed its tires to mislead law enforcement.

Officer Park’s autopsy revealed lacerations on top of her head, hemorrhaging inside the scalp and extensive fracturing of the skull. All of these injuries resulted from Mr. Grossman’s attack. The facts of this crime clearly meet the definition of heinous, atrocious and cruel, and his actions afterward demonstrate his well-reasoned attempts to cover it up.

The courts have fully reviewed Mr. Grossman’s legal claims, and his conviction and sentence have been affirmed by both the Florida Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court. Based on the facts and exhaustion of legal proceedings, and in accordance with Florida law, I signed his death warrant on January 12, 2010.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.