Circumstances of Offense:
Michael Zack was convicted and
sentenced to death for the 06/13/96 murder of Ravonne Smith.
Prior to the murder of Ravonne
Smith, Michael Zack resided in Tallahassee, Florida. Zack became a
regular at local bar and befriended the bartender, Edith Pope. Through
various conversations, Zack revealed that he witnessed his sister murder
his mother with an axe. Feeling sorry for Zack, Pope gave him odd jobs
to do around the bar.
On 06/04/96, Zack’s girlfriend called him at the
bar and informed him that he was being evicted from her apartment. Pope
let Zack borrow her car to retrieve his personal belongings and he never
Zack drove west to Panama City
where he met and befriended Bobby Chandler at a local bar. Chandler
owned a local construction business and hired Zack to work for him.
Once Chandler discovered that Zack was living out of his car (Pope’s
stolen Honda), he offered to let Zack stay with him temporarily. On
06/11/96, Zack left Chandler’s home in the middle of the night, stealing
a couple of guns and $42 from Chandler’s wallet. Zack pawned the guns
in Niceville the following day.
Zack then drove to Okaloosa
County, stopping at another bar. There he met Laura Rosillo. Zack and
Rosillo left the bar together and headed to the beach to reportedly do
drugs. Once at the beach, Zack attacked Rosillo. He hit her head
against one of the tires and tore her clothing. Zack strangled her and
hid her body behind a sand dune, kicking dirt over her face before he
left. The physical evidence suggested that Rosillo was sexually
assaulted; however, the semen found in her body could not be linked to
Zack proceeded to Joe’s Dirty
Bar near Pensacola. It was there that Zack met Ravonne Smith, one of
the bar’s employees. The bar was not too busy that afternoon, giving
Smith the opportunity to spend her time visiting with Zack. Smith
called her friend Russell Williams and asked him to come to the bar
because she was bored.
Around 7 p.m., Smith, Williams and Zack
left the bar together. Prior to leaving, Smith called her live-in
boyfriend and told him that she would be working late. The three drove
to the beach where they smoked marijuana and then later, they returned
to the bar. After Williams departed, Zack and Smith proceeded to her
Immediately after entering the
house, Zack reportedly hit Smith over the head with a beer bottle.
Glass shards and blood splatter sprayed onto the interior of the door
frame and the adjacent loveseat. Smith ran down the hall to the master
bedroom, leaving a trail of blood behind her. Zack followed her into
the bedroom and sexually assaulted her there. Smith then staggered into
the guest bedroom and, upon seeing this, Zack smashed her head down onto
the wooden floor.
At this point, Zack retrieved an oyster knife from
the kitchen, returned to the guest bedroom where Smith lay and stabbed
her four times in the chest. Zack took the knife back to the kitchen to
wash the blood off of it and stuffed Smith’s bloody clothes into a
dresser drawer. He stole Smith’s car, along with her television, VCR
That night, Zack removed the
license plate and some personal belongings from Pope’s stolen Honda and
abandoned it in a lot nearby. He then drove back to Panama City in
Smith’s car and attempted to pawn several of the stolen items. The shop
clerk suspected that the goods were stolen and asked Zack for
identification. Zack fled the shop and abandoned Smith’s car. He was
apprehended a few days later when he was found hiding out in an empty
After his arrest, Zack confessed
to the murder of Ravonne Smith and to the Pope and Chandler thefts.
At trial, Zack’s defense counsel
argued that Zack suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome and posttraumatic
stress disorder which are classified as a brain dysfunction and a mental
impairment respectively. These conditions have been claimed to make
Zack impulsive and cause him to be under constant emotional and mental
Zack was convicted in Okaloosa County for the murder of Laura Rosillo.
He was sentenced to life.
The defendant was indicted on the following charges:
Count I: First-Degree Murder (Ravonne Smith)
Count II: Robbery with a
Count III: Sexual
09/15/97 - The
jury found the defendant guilty of all counts charged in the indictment.
- The jury, by an 11 to 1 majority, voted for the
imposition of the death
The defendant was sentenced as followed:
Count I: First-Degree Murder (Ravonne Smith) - Death
Count II: Robbery with a
Firearm - Life
Count III: Sexual
Battery - Life
On 12/29/97, Zack filed a Direct
Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court. In that appeal, he argued that the
trial court erred in admitting evidence of the crimes he committed
during the weeks prior to Smith’s murder in violation of the Williams
Zack contended that “these crimes were not sufficiently similar to the
crimes charged, did not prove intent or disprove involuntary
intoxication, were not inextricably intertwined, and became a feature of
the trial.” The Florida Supreme Court found no error in the admission
of the evidence in question.
Zack also contended that the trial court
erred in denying his motion for acquittal on the sexual battery and
robbery charges. Zack next argued that the State failed to prove the
“avoid arrest” aggravating factor. The Florida Supreme Court agreed,
but found the error to be harmless in lieu of the weight of other valid,
Zack also argued that the “felony probation”
aggravating factor could not be retroactively applied to him, noting
that it was in October of 1996 that the Florida Legislature amended the
statute, making the commission of a murder by a defendant on felony
probation an aggravating factor.
The Florida Supreme Court agreed, but found the error to be harmless
beyond a reasonable doubt. As such, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed
Zack’s convictions and sentence of death on 01/06/00.
Next, Zack filed a Petition for
Writ of Certiorari in the United States Supreme Court on 06/19/00. The
petition was denied on 10/02/00.
Zack then filed a 3.850 Motion
in the State Circuit Court on 05/10/02. The motion was amended on
10/21/02 and denied on 07/15/03.
Zack filed a 3.850 Appeal to the
Florida Supreme Court on 08/08/03. Zack raised six issues for review in
the appeal. He argued that the trial counsel was ineffective for
failing to challenge the DNA testimony presented by the State; that
counsel was ineffective since he failed to prepare him to testify at
trial; that counsel was ineffective because he made prejudicial comments
to the jury; that the trial court erred in denying claims raised in his
motion for postconviction relief; that Florida’s sentencing scheme is
unconstitutional under Ring; and that collateral counsel was
ineffective. The court denied all six claims. On 07/07/05, the Florida
Supreme Court affirmed the denial of Zack’s 3.850 Motion.
Zack filed a Petition for Writ
of Habeas Corpus in the Florida Supreme Court on 02/12/04. In his
petition, Zack argued that appellate counsel was ineffective for
neglecting to raise a claim about the State’s racially motivated
peremptory challenge during jury selection and should have also argued
that the prosecutor made impermissible arguments to the jury.
argued that the State introduced nonstautory aggravating factors in
court and that appellate counsel was ineffective for neglecting to raise
a claim on appeal about admitting certain crime scene photos as evidence
and for neglecting to raise a claim that the trial court erroneously
admitted irrelevant and prejudicial evidence to the court such as
evidence on other crimes Zack committed. The court denied all six of
Zack’s claims, denying his petition on 07/07/05.
On 12/01/04, Zack filed a 3.851
Motion for mental retardation to the state circuit court. On 01/18/05,
the motion was dismissed with prejudice.
On 03/04/05, Zack filed a
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus to the Florida Supreme Court. The
FSC denied Zack’s petition on 10/06/05 based on Chandler v. Crosby.
Zack filed a 3.203 Appeal in the
Florida Supreme Court on 03/18/05. The appeal is currently pending.
On 09/28/05, Zack filed a
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the United States District Court,
North District. The petition is currently pending.