I am a death penalty supporter. I believe the death penalty to be the proper corrective action for premeditated murder, and both far more compassionate and far more effective than other forms of judicial punishment. That said, I believe that imposing it on a 19 year old who did not commit premeditated murder weakens support for the death penalty overall and makes a mockery of the judicial system.
Martin Grossman’s heinous crime was committed when he was 19. He panicked when a park ranger, Peggy Park, found him shooting off into an abandoned area with a stolen handgun, which would have been a parole violation. In the fit of the moment and high on drugs, he grabbed her weapon and shot her in the back of the head. There is no excuse for such a heinous and tragic act, but it is also not first degree murder or a case which would normally see the death penalty imposed.
In fact, a major problem with imposing the death penalty in this case, is that it gives every crazed leftist group an example to hammer proponents of capital punishment with. Unlike the mass murderers, premeditated killers and other monsters those groups seek to defend, a death sentence for a 19 year old who essentially committed murder in the heat of the moment, would give those groups a legitimate cause to rally around. Doing so is careless and there’s no reason for the cause of justice to be harmed by an over the top death sentence that is almost never handed down for spur of the moment killings, least when they are committed by a 19 year old.
In order to prevent Peggy Park’s murder, I’d have shot Martin Grossman myself. If I could go back to the scene and time of the crime and have to shoot him to prevent her murder, I’d do so without hesitation and with a sense of honor in so doing. But the fact is that almost no one receives a death sentence when they’re 19 years old, high on PCP, crystal meth, cocaine and other drugs. The death penalty is typically reserved for murder with aggravating factors. On top of that, giving advocates a martyr in the form of Martin Grossman makes no sense. Support for the death penalty is at record highs and people have come to recognize it as a fairer form of punishment for the type of cases that it is typically reserved for. Overuse of same would cause a reverse in opinion and runs the risk of leading to a less fair, less compassionate (as the death penalty, in premeditated cases, is also a compassionate choice) and a less effective judicial system across the board.
The Florida clemency board, which consists of Gov. Crist, Attorney General Bill McCollum, CFO Alex Sink and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson, would do well in commuting Martin Grossman’s scheduled execution. Governor Crist’s opponent for US Senate, Marco Rubio, has not shown any sign that he would attack Governor Crist over this decision. Doing so would cause many supporters of his to defend the governor on this issue, and would rally people who’ve never spoken up in favor of the Governor to do so if he did.
This is a clear case of overreach that can only have devastating consequences on the future of capital punishment as a just deterrent. If Governor Crist and the Florida Cabinet act on this issue, their leadership will not go unnoticed and true supporters of the death penalty should be the first to speak out on this matter.