Florida Urges Justices to Allow Execution

Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office urged the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday to reject a request to block next week’s scheduled execution of Death Row inmate Michael Duane Zack.

Lawyers for Zack on Tuesday filed a request for a stay of execution and an accompanying petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the issues in the case. The move came after the Florida Supreme Court last week refused to halt Zack’s execution for the 1996 murder of a woman in Escambia County.

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Zack’s attorneys contend he should be shielded from execution because of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome that he suffered because his mother drank alcohol while pregnant. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 2002 case known as Atkins v. Virginia that executing people with intellectual disabilities violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. But in urging rejection of a stay Thursday, lawyers in Moody’s office disputed the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome argument.

“There is no real possibility of this (Supreme) Court expanding Atkins to include a diagnosis of FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome),” the state lawyers wrote.

“Zack would not succeed in having this court wholesale defer to the views of the psychiatric community on the matter of whether Atkins should be expanded to include other types of diagnoses. While he asserts that the psychiatric community now views FAS as functionally identical to intellectual disability, courts determine Eighth Amendment law, not unelected and unrepresentative experts.”

Zack is scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Florida State Prison for the murder of Ravonne Smith. His attorneys on Thursday also filed a separate petition at the U.S. Supreme Court after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals turned down arguments that he had not received a proper clemency process.

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Photos: Jack’s Cocktail Party

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