Phoenix man fighting for pardon in Florida murder has support from victim’s family

A Phoenix man who was wrongly convicted of first-degree murder in Florida wants a pardon and he has the support of the victim's family.
Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 9:02 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - An Arizona man is fighting for his name to be cleared in one of the most high-profile murder cases in Florida history. Mark Herman was convicted of first-degree murder of a well-known Palm Beach oil executive in 1976 but was granted clemency in 1992 after witnesses changed their story. Now, he’s trying to get a pardon to completely clear his name, and the victim’s children are joining him in that fight to get Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ attention.

It was one of the most highly publicized trials in Florida history, televised gavel to gavel, much like the O.J. Simpson trial. Everyone watched Mark Herman be convicted for this murder. But now it’s become one of Florida’s most historic cold cases, and while Herman is out of prison, without a pardon, he isn’t truly free. On Jan. 16, 1976, oil tycoon Richard Kreusler just got home from dinner, when he got a knock at the door. While he didn’t open it, he was met with three shots and killed. “I never met him. I never even hardly been to that part of town,” said Herman.

Herman was a multitime black belt running one of the most successful martial arts schools in the southeast at the time. Seemingly out of nowhere, he was charged with Kreusler’s murder. “Mark was a lot of things, Briana, but he wasn’t a killer. He was never a killer,” said Mike Sallah, who was covering the case at the time. “This was probably the first big story I covered. I was a cub reporter the Palm Beach Daily News.”

The now Pulitzer prize-winning newspaper reporter started covering the case back then and the subsequent trial. Herman had been in prison on a possession of marijuana charge, and the star witnesses in the case were five other inmates who testified Herman confessed to the shooting. “I had to watch these guys lie and these people eat it up,” said Herman.

While Herman maintained his innocence, he was convicted of first-degree murder. But a few years later, Sallah interviewed the star witness. “He admitted that he had made up the whole story,” said Sallah. “There are these quotes you don’t forget. He said, ‘it’s the most despicable thing I’ve ever done.’ And he regretted that day he’d ever done it. Four of the five witnesses, Briana, testified and went on camera and said we made it up. We all did it.”

Herman had spent 15 years in prison when the Florida governor took notice in 1992. The judge in the case told the governor he supported granting Herman clemency and the board unanimously voted to commute him. But here’s the thing. “He’s still considered a convicted felon,” said Sallah. “If you look up his criminal history, it’ll still say he was convicted of first-degree murder.”

Herman has now made it his mission to seek a full pardon that would completely absolve him from this crime he maintains he didn’t commit. And now he has Kreusler’s family, the victim’s kids, supporting him. They wrote a letter in 2020 to Gov. DeSantis asking him to pardon Herman. “I’m thrilled with that. I’ve got so much respect for them,” said Herman.

Herman’s family said they’ve been told DeSantis isn’t granting any clemency cases for capital murder because of his possible upcoming presidential run, but Herman’s case is different since he only needs a pardon. “Why the governor’s done this I’m not sure, but if he’s clearly interested in justice, it’s a great case to base justice on,” said Sallah.

For Herman, this isn’t just about him. It’s about his son Mark Herman Jr., who was born while he was prison, and has dealt with bullying about his dad over the years. That’s what keeps his emotional fight alive. “My son, my son has my name,” Mark Herman Sr. said with tears in his eyes. “He’s a grown man now. It would mean the world to me to get that just to clear my name.”

Arizona’s Family reached out to Gov. DeSantis’ office to ask them what Herman needs to do to get this pardon. His office confirmed they got our email and knew we were doing the story Thursday night, but never got back to us with a response. As of now, Kreusler’s murder is still a cold case, though a lot of private investigation work is happening behind the scenes as we speak.

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