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Agudah expresses ‘anguish’ after Grossman execution

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — Agudath Israel of America expressed "deep anguish" after the execution in Florida of a murderer whose case drew Orthodox pleas for clemency.

Martin Grossman, 45, died at 6:17 p.m. Eastern time in Starke, Fla., on Tuesday by lethal injection, the Tampa Tribune reported. His last words were an expression of "heartfelt remorse" to the family of his victim, Peggy Park, an acceptance of responsibility for the crime and the Shema prayer.

"The tragic news out of Florida leaves us feeling deep anguish and sorrow,"  Rabbi David Zwiebel, Agudath Israel of America’s executive vice president, said in a statement. "Mr. Grossman’s execution has hit our community very hard.  He was a fellow Jew and so we saw him as a brother."

An array of Orthodox Jewish organizations had pleaded to no avail with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who is in a tough primary fight for the Republication nomination in this year’s U.S. Senate election. The Vatican also pleaded on Grossman’s behalf after a request from Orthodox Jews.

"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," Zwiebel said. "Unfortunately, our hopes were dashed."

Grossman killed Park, a state wildlife officer, on Dec. 13, 1984. Grossman was 19 when Park tried to arrest him for shooting a stolen gun in an undeveloped area. He and a companion beat Park before shooting her with her own gun. At the time Grossman was on probation for grand theft and breaking and entering.

Grossman’s intercessors argued that the crime was not premeditated, that he had expressed remorse and that he had diminished mental capacity. The U.S. Supreme Court turned away their final appeal on Tuesday.

Present at the execution were Park’s brother, sister and mother. Grossman spent his final day with his rabbi, an aunt and two friends.

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