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)

DC #    436015

DOB:   08/10/66


­­­­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:



Offense Date


Sentence Date


Case No.

Sentence Length


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.

Trial Summary:


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

death penalty.

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


Appeals Summary:


Florida Supreme Court – Direct Appeal

FSC #83,612

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

USSC #96-7631

520 U.S. 1199


01/28/97          Petition filed.

04/28/97          USSC denied the petition.


Circuit Court – 3.850 Motion

CC #91-22048


04/07/98          Motion filed.

06/28/99          Amended Motion filed.

07/30/04          Motion denied.

Florida Supreme Court – 3.850 Appeal

FSC# 04-1879

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.


Case Information:


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