The Commission on Capital Cases updates this information regularly. This information, however, is subject to change and may not reflect the latest status of an inmate’s case and should not be relied upon for statistical or legal purposes.
SIMS, Merit A. (B/M)
11th Judicial Circuit, Dade County, Case #91-22048
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable Thomas Carney
Attorneys, Trial: Clinton Pitts and Author Carter – Private
Attorney, Direct Appeal: Christina A. Spaulding – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Collateral Appeals: Benjamin Duke – Private
Date of Offense: 06/11/91
Date of Sentence: 03/18/94
Circumstances of Offense:
Merrit Alonso Sims was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of law enforcement officer Charles Stafford.
On 06/11/91, Miami Springs Police Officer Charles Stafford pulled over Merrit A. Sims because Stafford believed that Sims was driving a stolen car. While Stafford was in the process of handcuffing Sims, Sims hit the officer in the head with his police radio and took Stafford’s firearm away from him. Sims shot Stafford with the firearm twice. He then drove to a park and threw the firearm into a river. The next day Sims found a friend to cut off the handcuffs. Sims traveled to California by bus to find his ex-girlfriend and two children, and Sims subsequently was arrested. He confessed to killing Officer Stafford; however, he said that the act was in self-defense. Sims waived extradition and was returned to Florida to stand trial.
Prior Incarceration History in the State of Florida:
Robbery w/ Firearm or Deadly Weapon
2 Years, 6 Months
Grand Theft Firearm
2 Years, 6 Months
On 11/14/90, Merrit Sims was convicted of Robbery with a Firearm and Grand Theft with a Firearm and sentenced to two years and six months. Sims was released on 04/16/91.
07/17/91 Indicted on the following counts:
Count I: First-Degree Murder of a Law Enforcement Officer
Count II: Armed Robbery
Count III: Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon
07/18/91 Sims entered a not guilty plea.
01/12/94 The jury returned guilty verdicts for Counts I, II, and III of the indictment.
02/04/94 Upon advisory sentencing, the jury, by an 8 to 4 majority, voted for the
03/18/94 Sims was sentenced as follows:
Count I: First-Degree Murder of a Law Enforcement Officer – Death
Count II: Armed Robbery – 75 years, less 981 days for time served
Count III: Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon – Nolle Prossed
Florida Supreme Court – Direct Appeal
681 So. 2d 1112
04/27/94 Appeal filed.
07/18/96 FSC affirmed the conviction and sentence.
10/24/96 Rehearing denied.
11/25/96 Mandate issued.
United States Supreme Court – Petition for Writ of Certiorari
520 U.S. 1199
01/28/97 Petition filed.
04/28/97 USSC denied the petition.
Circuit Court – 3.850 Motion
04/07/98 Motion filed.
06/28/99 Amended Motion filed.
07/30/04 Motion denied.
Florida Supreme Court – 3.850 Appeal
967 So.2d 148 (2007)
09/20/04 Appeal filed.
04/03/06 FSC relinquished jurisdiction to the Circuit Court to consider the
ineffective assistance of counsel claim.
07/25/06 Evidentiary Hearing held in Circuit Court
08/08/06 Case returned to FSC
07/12/07 FSC reversed denial of motion and remanded for new trial
07/26/07 State’s Motion for Rehearing filed
10/11/07 State’s Motion for Rehearing denied
10/29/07 Mandate issued.
Factors Contributing to the Delay in Execution of Sentence:
The 3.850 Motion was pending from 04/07/98 – 07/30/04.
As mandated 10/29/07, Sims is currently awaiting a new trial in the Circuit Court. He was effectively removed from death row on 11/12/07.
Merrit Alonso Sims filed his Direct Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court on 04/27/94. Sims raised several issues on appeal. One issue was that the defense was not allowed to rebut the testimony of a prosecution witness. Another issue was that the trial court allowed the prosecution to act improperly. Sims also argued that the mitigating and aggravating factors were not sufficiently reviewed. The Florida Supreme Court did not find a basis for reversal of the conviction or sentence. The Florida Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and sentence on 07/18/96. Rehearing was denied on 10/24/96. A Mandate was issued 11/25/96.
On 01/28/97, Sims filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the United States Supreme Court. The United States Supreme Court denied the petition on 04/28/97.
Sims filed a 3.850 Motion in the Circuit Court on 04/07/98 and an amended motion on 06/28/99. The motion was denied on 07/30/04.
Sims filed a 3.850 Motion Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court on 09/20/04. On 04/03/06, the FSC relinquished jurisdiction to the Circuit Court to consider the ineffective assistance of counsel claim. On 07/25/06, an Evidentiary Hearing was held in the Circuit Court. On 08/08/06, the case was returned to the FSC. Having met the burden of establishing that his trial counsel was ineffective, the FSC reversed denial of motion on 07/12/07 and remanded for a new trial. On 07/26/07, the State filed a Motion for Rehearing, which was denied on 10/11/07. A mandate was issued with the Florida Supreme Court in this case on 10/29/07.
Report Date: 12/28/01 S.Q
Approved: 02/01/02 W.S.
Updated: 03/24/08 AEH