The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday declined to stay the execution of inmate Michael Duane Zack, scheduled for Oct. 3, after rejecting his lawyers’ argument that he was suffering from “fetal alcohol syndrome.”
The highest court in Florida upheld the verdict of a district judge from Escambia County (northwestern corner of the state) last August against Zack, who has been imprisoned since 1996 for a double murder.
Zack’s lawyers argue in their petition that their client should be exempt from execution because of the “fetal alcohol syndrome he suffered during his mother’s pregnancy” and are appealing the United States Supreme Court’s decision that the execution of people with mental disabilities is unconstitutional.
Zack’s lawyers argue that fetal alcohol syndrome caused the inmate to become mentally disabled.
If there is no order to stay the execution, Zack will be given the lethal injection at six o’clock in the afternoon on October 3, according to the order already signed by the governor of Florida, Republican Ron DeSantis.
This will be the sixth execution in Florida this year.
The death row man was arrested in June 1996 after killing Laurie Rosillo and Ravonne Smith in the Florida Panhandle, during a crime escalation for which he was convicted of first-degree murder on both counts.
Zack was sentenced to life in prison for Rosillo’s death and the death penalty for Smith’s death.
If Zack’s execution goes ahead, it would be the 105th since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 in Florida, where there are currently 300 prisoners on “death row,” three of them women.
Since 1973, more than 190 people have been released from death row in the United States based on evidence of their innocence, with Florida being the state with the highest number, with 30 states exempt from the death penalty, followed by Illinois (22) and Texas (16).
It will also be the eighth execution carried out in Florida during the administration of Governor DeSantis, who implemented judicial reform that allows a simple majority, rather than unanimity, to impose the death penalty in the state.