Tonight, We the People of the State of Florida, killed our sixth citizen this year – Michael Zack – known as “Zack” to his lawyers and pen friends, as “Bubba” to his sisters, and as “Hillbilly” to his fellow men on death row. Michael’s life began with violence and now, at the hands of the State of Florida, has ended in violence.
Michael has spent more than half of his life on Florida’s death row. Those 27 years sadly have been the most stable, productive, and safest period in Michael’s life – a place where he has found faith, love, friendship, education, and the stability that he was so cruelly denied in his early years.
Michael and his sisters endured an unimaginable childhood of horrors. Michael grew in his alcoholic mother’s womb and was born prematurely after her car accident. His birth father left shortly thereafter, and his mother’s next husband was sadistically abusive toward Michael and his sisters. At the age of 3, he was hospitalized after his stepfather force-fed him alcohol and drugs. He was kicked, beaten, and thrown against walls. He was humiliated and tortured for bed-wetting, forced to wear a urine-soaked sheet around his neck, and stand still while his father burned his genitals with a heated spoon. When he was 11, his mother was murdered with an ax, sending Michael into the clutches of the foster care system, which failed Michael even further.
But Michael is more than the brutalized child; he is more than the violent acts that he committed. His story is one of remorse and redemption. I urge you to read Michael’s final statement in full below, where he expresses deep remorse, regret, and a heartbreaking longing for a second chance that someone could have intervened and eased his childhood suffering. He urges us all to “make a difference in a child’s life…to save another child” from his same fate.
Michael has accepted responsibility for the pain he inflicted on Ravonne Smith and Laura Rosillo. Their families did not deserve to lose these two women in such a violent way. And yet, as Michael’s three sisters eloquently explain fully below, losing Michael to state-sanctioned murder creates “another irrevocable and profound loss.”
Michael is responsible for the irreparable damage that he inflicted on his victims and their families. And We, the People of the State of Florida, are responsible for the further damage inflicted upon Michael’s.
Michael Zack’s Final Statement
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. I have woken up every single day since then filled with remorse and a wish to make my time here on earth mean something more than the worst thing I ever did.
When I got to death row, I substituted drugs and alcohol for happiness and positive relationships. I am so grateful to the guys on the row who took the time to teach me how to read and write. They changed my life forever because their love and support allowed me to have pen pals and friends all over the world. John, Susan, Maria, Anna, and David—I treasure you and the unconditional love you have shared with me all these years. The ability to read and write also led me to my beloved wife and soulmate, Ann-Kristin. I will love her for eternity.
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. To all my brothers on death row, please continue to help each other. Give each other hope and peace. Keep sharing the love and acceptance that you all showed a hillbilly from Kentucky.
To all the lawyers, counselors, social workers, and volunteers who are working so hard to fix the juvenile justice and child welfare system in this country, 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. Your work is so important, and I love you.
To all the drug and alcohol treatment counselors and family and friends of people who, like me, suffer from addiction: Never give up! I hope you understand how much you are appreciated and loved. Someone like you could have changed my life twenty-seven years ago when I was screaming out for help.
To Brother Dale and Susan, God bless you, and thank you for being such a blessing to me.
To Linda, Dawn, Stacy, Jessica, Amanda, and Diana, thank you for everything you have done for me all these years. You fought for me until my last breath, and I love you.
And finally, to Governor Desantis and the Clemency Board: I love you. I forgive you. I pray for you. Michael Zack
Sisters of Michael Zack Release Statement on Brother’s Execution
Tonight, The State of Florida executed our brother Michael, who we’ve always lovingly called “Bubba.” The pain and sorrow that accompany such a loss are indescribable.
We acknowledge the painful truth that our brother’s actions resulted in the tragic losses of Ms. Smith and Ms. Rosillo. We can empathize with the unimaginable pain experienced by their families and respect their unique feelings about this execution. Our mother was violently murdered when we were young; Bubba was only eleven years old. The pain of losing a loved one under such circumstances is beyond measure. The void left by her absence is profound.
Bubba endured, as we all did, unimaginable abuse at the hands of our father. Bubba did his best to protect us, his three sisters, yet we all have enduring scars from the trauma. Each of us has grappled with the violence that Bubba’s childhood trauma led him to inflict upon innocent victims. We are angry at what he has done.
Despite the darkness that surrounds us, our hearts remain tethered to a complex tapestry of emotions. We are aligned in the belief that he should have remained separated from society, where he would face accountability for his actions and maintain the sobriety he has achieved over the last 27 years. Still, our love for him endures. With his execution, our family faces another irrevocable and profound loss.
We understand the pain the families are experiencing, and while it does not get easier, you do learn to cope with the pain. We will keep you in our thoughts and prayers.
Michael’s sisters, Lil Mama, TT, and Tish