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Feature News | Saturday, September 16, 2023

Florida bishops urge Gov. DeSantis to spare the life of Michael Zack

TALLAHASSEE | The Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FCCB) has requested that Gov. Ron DeSantis stay the execution of Michael Zack and commute his sentence to life without parole. Zack is scheduled to be executed on Oct. 3, 2023, at 6 p.m.  

Zack was convicted of and received a death sentence for the 1996 murder of Ravonne Smith of Pensacola. He also received a life sentence for the murder of Laura Rosillo in Okaloosa County that took place shortly before Smith’s murder. 


In a Sept. 11, 2023, letter to DeSantis on behalf of the bishops of Florida, Michael Sheedy, FCCB executive director, recognized that Zack’s “heinous and horrific crimes against these women have caused untold suffering to their families, friends, and communities.”  

“Yet, in taking the life of Mr. Zack, the state will do nothing to restore the victims’ lives,” said Sheedy. “Rather, state-sanctioned killing will only further fuel the growing societal disrespect for the dignity of human life. The death penalty merely perpetuates the cycles of violence and vengeance that permeate our culture.” 

Sheedy also noted the violence that was inflicted on Zack during his childhood. “In his youth, he endured an extremely abusive home environment, undergoing severe physical and sexual abuse at the hands of his stepfather.” 

Neuroscientific research shows that such traumatic experiences can have lasting effects on a child’s developing brain, which can profoundly affect behavior. Zack’s defense team presented expert testimony that he suffers from organic brain damage, fetal alcohol syndrome, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Floridians are being asked to take action by clicking on this link.

Before Zack’s scheduled execution, Floridians will gather across the state to pray for him and his victims, for DeSantis as he considers the request to stay the execution, and for an end to the cycle of violence in society. 

The gatherings in Miami-Dade and Broward counties will take place:

  • Saturday, Sept. 23, at 7 p.m, a Holy Hour for the intentions of the Respect Life Ministry at St. Louis Church, 7270 S.W. 120 St., Pinecrest; and
  • Thursday, Sept. 28, at 6:30 p.m., an adoration for life with prayer of the rosary, reflections, praise and worship music at St. David Church, 3900 South University Drive, Davie.
The date of the Holy Hour at St. Louis Church was corrected after this article was posted. 

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