We woke up in Florida this morning with a dubious distinction – we have now killed more of our citizens than any other state in the country this year. It’s always difficult to find the words and the strength to keep up the fight after such state-sanctioned brutality, and today I am especially struggling. Executions are always senseless, but Michael’s last words in the execution chamber – “I love you all” – and his final written statement, which his lawyers asked me to read at the execution vigil, cements the fact that Florida’s death penalty is irretrievably broken and cruel.
Michael’s life started with violence and ended with violence. You would not let your child spend 5 minutes in the Zack household to endure what Michael and his sisters went through their entire childhood. But Michael’s final words remind us he is more than his traumatic childhood, and he is more than the worst thing he has ever done. His words of deep remorse, gratitude, hope, and love are still ringing in my ears. I shared them on social media this morning. I taped the full statement to my office door. I would plaster it on the walls of the Governor’s Mansion and the Florida State Capitol if I could. Read it. Share it. Tell everyone you know. These are the people we are executing.
Michael’s statement was filled with gratitude for the men on the row who taught him to read and write and showed him love and acceptance for the first time. One of those men – FADP Board Member, Florida’s 28th exoneree, and my client and dear friend – Clemente Aguirre showed up at the FSP vigil. He stood up and spoke from the heart about Michael, their time together on the row, and the promise he made to Michael. Listen and share here.
You organized and attended a record number of vigils and protests held across the state. Over 5,000 of you signed petitions and Faith Leader letters that were delivered to Governor DeSantis and the Florida Board of Executive Clemency. You overloaded the Governor’s Office and the Clemency Board with so many calls that they had to turn off their phones.
Within minutes of Zack’s execution, we shared our press statement, Michael’s statement, and the statement of his three sisters to our hundreds of media contacts. People are listening. The local and national media coverage reprinted Michael’s statement in full.
I am angry. I am sickened that it took going to death row to finally give Michael the stability he was so cruelly deprived of as a child. And yet, I am proud of the man he became in there, and proud of all of you for committing to tell the truth about the human beings we are executing.
I’ll leave you with a call to action from Michael’s final statement – “I hope my story will inspire you to make a difference in a child’s life. You have the power to save another child from my fate.” And on top of that, I have my own call to action for you: This week, tell one stranger about Michael. Someone in line at the grocery store; your barista at the coffee shop; the cashier at Target; anyone.Tell the truth about Florida’s death penalty. Shout it from the rooftops. It’s the only way we will bring this cruelty to its rightful end.
FADP Executive Director
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