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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Man executed for 1996 murder Tuesday at Florida State Prison

Michael Zack III’s execution is the 6th in 2023

Protestors gather at the Florida State Prison in Bradford County in support of abolishing capital punishment on Wednesday, Oct. 3rd, 2023.
Protestors gather at the Florida State Prison in Bradford County in support of abolishing capital punishment on Wednesday, Oct. 3rd, 2023.

Michael Duane Zack III woke up Tuesday morning at 5:30 a.m. and met with his first wife, Ann-Kristin. He declined a last meal, met with his spiritual advisor and died by lethal injection by 6:14 p.m. that same day. 

Across the street from the Florida State Prison, Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty protested and prayed as Zack was executed. 

Zack, 54, was serving a life sentence for the murder of Laura Rosillo in Okaloosa County, and was sentenced to death for the 1996 rape and murder of 31-year-old Ravonne Smith in Escambia County. He was officially sentenced to death Nov. 24, 1997, and DeSantis signed his death warrant Aug. 17.

Zack drove Rosillo to the beach to use drugs after meeting her at a bar. He then beat her, sexually assaulted her and left her half naked there, according to court records. He also met Smith, his second victim, in a bar. After entering her home, he beat her, sexually assaulted her and stabbed her, according to court records. Both crimes occurred within a nine-day period.

He appealed his life sentence to the Florida Supreme Court, claiming intellectual disability due to fetal alcohol syndrome, low intellectual abilities and PTSD. The court denied his appeal.

Maria DeLiberato, executive director for FADP, read Zack’s final statement on his behalf. 

“Twenty-seven years ago, I was an alcoholic and a drug addict. I did things that have hurt a lot of people — not only the victims and their families and friends, but my own family and friends as well,” Zack wrote. “I make no excuses. I lay no blame but how I wish that I could have a second chance to live out my days in prison and continue to do all I can to make a difference in this world.”

Clemente Aguirre, a 43-year-old death row exoneree, was in attendance. He served time on death row with Zack, and described him as “friendly” and “mellow.”

“I promised him that I would be here,” Aguirre said. 

Diocese of St. Augustine Bishop Emeritus Felipe Estévez led the vigil attendees in prayer, claiming that capital punishment is a form of justice that is not restorative, he said. Estévez visited Zack many times before his execution, he said.

At 6 p.m. — Zack’s scheduled execution time — members of FADP struck a large, rusty bell with a hammer, followed by phrases like “Not in my name.” Nearly every person in attendance struck the bell, some through tears.

In Florida, 30 people have been exonerated while waiting on death row since 1972, according to Reason Foundation. Florida law previously required all 12 jurors to recommend a death sentence, but in April, that number lowered to eight jurors. 

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Zack is the sixth and final prisoner on death row to be executed in 2023, and the eighth under DeSantis. There are currently 291 prisoners on death row in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

In the final words of his last statement, he thanked DeSantis and the clemency board.

“I love you. I forgive you. I pray for you,” Zack wrote. 

Contact Ella Thompson Follow her on Twitter @elladeethompson.

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Ella Thompson

Ella Thompson is a third-year journalism major and the Spring 2024 Metro Editor. In her free time, she likes to go to the beach or read a good book. 

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