Both Jewish and non-Jewish community leaders are petitioning Florida Governor Charlie Crist for an emergency stay of execution for death-row prisoner Martin Grossman, scheduled to be executed on Feb. 16th.

National Council of Young Israel, Agudath Israel of America, Orthodox Union, Chabad, Satmar, and Rabbinical Alliance of America, are amongst a list of 200 organizations pleading with the Florida Governor to grant a 60-day stay which would enable for a comprehensive clemency application to be presented and considered.

The case of Martin Grossman is gaining national attention. In 1984, Grossman was a 19-year-old drug-addicted high-school dropout with a juvenile record for trespassing. He and a friend, Thayne Taylor, drove to an isolated nature reserve to fire a found handgun. A wildlife officer stopped them, searched their car and confiscated the gun. Martin, who is reported to have an IQ of 77, panicked and began pleading with the officer not to report him as he would be in violation of his probation. When she reached for her radio a struggle ensued, which resulted in the officer reaching for her own gun, whereupon Martin panicked, snatched her gun and shot her. A psychiatrist who evaluated him concluded, from his psychological and medical condition, that he could not have formed the intent to kill. Taylor served less than three years in prison while Martin was sentenced to death.

Mr. Grossman has been on death row for over 25 years.

The petition argues that the death sentence meted out to him is disproportionate in the extreme and that his defense was inadequate. Only one percent of murder sentences end in capital punishment, crimes commonly referred to as "the worst of the worst."

The petition further argues that Martin's crime, considering the lack of premeditation, his drug addiction, his IQ level, and several other compelling factors does not qualify for the death penalty, and that the court ignored mitigating circumstances. Only four of thirty-three available defense witnesses were used in the sentencing phase. Additionally, there are allegations of prosecutorial misconduct as well. A fellow prisoner and key witness for the government swears that he lied at trial, and that he was rewarded by having his own charges dropped. Martin Grossman's appeals regarding these issues have been rejected without hearings, but they could be considered in a clemency petition.

"Martin has shown deep and profound remorse over the years, and is no longer the same wild reckless person he was 26 years ago," argues Rabbi Menachem Katz from the Aleph Institute, who has visited Martin regularly over the past 15 years.

As of this release, Governor Crist has not agreed to grant a stay. Execution is set for February 16 at 6:00 PM.

Concerned citizens are encouraged to call (1-850-488-7146) or email the Governor and ask for clemency and mercy for Martin Grossman, and to sign the online petition.

Organizations or individuals who can assist in this emergency effort are asked to contact Rabbi Zvi Boyarsky at zvi@aleph-institute.org / 718-415-2221 or Rabbi Moshe Matz at mmatz@agudathisrael.org / 305-532-2500.