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Last NameFirst NamePictureDC NumberAgencyCase Summary
Merck, Jr.Troy 118167CCRC-MCase Summary

Last Action

DateCourtCase NumberLast Action
5/9/2008USSC07-10853Petition for Writ of Certiorari filed
6/12/2008USSC07-10853State's Response brief filed
10/6/2008USSC07-10853Certiorari petition denied
9/17/2010FSC10-18303.850 Appeal filed
5/5/2009CC91-16659Status Conference
9/2/2009CC91-166593.850 Motion filed
10/5/2009CC91-16659Status Conference
10/30/2009CC91-16659State's response filed
8/27/2010CC91-16659Motion denied
9/14/2010CC91-16659Motion for Rehearing filed
10/5/2010CC91-16659Motion stricken

Current Attorney


Last Updated

2008-01-09 11:43:13.0

Case Summary
Direct Links

The Commission on Capital Cases updates this information regularly

The Commission on Capital Cases updates thisinformation regularly.  This information; however, is subject to changeand may not reflect the latest status of an inmate’s case and should not berelied upon for statistical or legal purposes. 


MERCK, Jr., Troy (W/M)

AKA:  Billy Joe Melton or Hillbilly

DC#    118167

DOB:  01/09/72


Sixth Judicial Circuit, Pinellas County Case# 91-16659

Sentencing Judge:  The Honorable Claire K. Luten

Resentencing Judge (I):  The Honorable Nelly N.Khoutzam

Resentencing Judge (II):  The Honorable Brandt C.Downey, III

Attorneys, Trial:  Frederick S. Zinober & James A.Martin – Private

Attorneys, Direct Appeal:  William Bennett, RichardWatts & Michael Schwartzberg – Private

Attorney, Resentencing (I):  Steven L. Bolotin –Assistant Public Defender

Attorney, Resentencing (II):  John C. Fisher – PublicDefender

Attorneys, Collateral Appeals:  Bill Jennings, RichardKiley, James V. Viggiano, & Ali Shakoor – CCRC-M; Paul Helm – AssistantPublic Defender


Date of Offense:  10/11/91

Date of Sentence:  12/10/93

Date of Resentence (I):  09/12/97

Date of Resentence (II):  08/06/04


Circumstances of Offense:


On 09/07/93, Troy Merck, Jr. was convicted of first-degreemurder and sentenced to death.


On the night of 10/10/91, Merck and his companion, NeilThomas, who came from North Carolina to Florida, attended a bar in PinellasCounty.  The bar closed at 2:00 a.m. and several of the patrons remainedin the bar’s parking lot.  Several of the patrons and witnesses, includingMerck and Thomas, had consumed a substantial amount of alcohol during theevening, while at the bar.


In the parking lot, Merck and his companion were leaning ona parked car with multiple occupants inside.  One of the occupants of thecar asked them to not lean on the car. 

Merck and his companion sarcastically apologized. James Anthony Newton approached the car and engaged in a conversation with theoccupants in the car.  Merck made a snide remark to Newton, afteroverhearing an occupant of the car, Katherine Sullivan (who had been drinkingand was an off-duty bartender at the bar), congratulating Newton on hisbirthday.  Newton told Merck to mind his own business, and Merck attemptedto provoke a fight, which Newton refused.

Merck walked over to his car, unlocked his passenger-sidedoor, took off his shirt, and threw his shirt in the back seat.  Merck approachedNewton once again and began punching him in the back.  Sullivan testifiedthat she saw a glint of light from some sort of blade and saw blood spots onNewton’s back.  Sullivan testified that she ran back into the bar and toldbouncers to call 911.  At the trial, Sullivan described the person whostabbed Newton as a man wearing khaki pants.  She stated that it wasMerck, not Thomas, who made snide remarks and goaded Newton to fight. James Carter, the chief security for the nightclub, ran out to theparking lot after Sullivan reported the stabbing.  He saw a car pullingout of the parking lot and was able to get the license plate number. Another coworker was assisting Newton, who was moving and coughing upblood.  According to medical examiners, Newton died from multiple stabwounds, but the main fatal wound was to the neck.


At trial, Thomas acknowledged that he had eight or ninefelony convictions and claimed to have changed his life since then. According to Thomas, he and Merck met just a few weeks before the incident at abar in Ocala and became friends.  On the night of the incident, Thomasstated that he had been drinking heavily, as was Merck.  Thomas admittedhe was trying to provoke Newton into a fight, but was not getting a responseout of him.  Merck became very agitated with Newton and began beatingNewton from behind, throwing punches.  Thomas did not recall giving Merckthe keys to his car, but remembered warning Newton to leave before thesituation escalated.


As the fight carried on for the next 15-20 seconds, Thomasstated that his attention shifted away from the fight to the entire parkinglot.  As Thomas shifted his attention back to the fight, he noticed Newtonbent over the hood of a blue car and his shirt appeared rather wet.  Merckdemanded to Thomas that it was time to leave and he agreed.  Thomas statedthat he noticed Merck holding his hand stiffly by his leg as if concealingsomething; he had not seen a knife, but was starting to have suspicion.


Thomas drove away from the parking lot and asked Merck if hestabbed Newton.  Merck admitted the stabbing, while holding a bloody knifein the air, and said that if he did not kill him, he would find him at thehospital and “finish the job.”  Thomas stated that Merck threatened tokill his grandmother if he said anything.  The two men drove into anapartment complex to change the license tag of the car.  Afterwards, theywent to a Burger King and then a bowling alley where they shot pool for 20minutes. They left their car at the Burger King, after spotting a policecruiser, and took a taxi back to their hotel room.  Thomas stated thatMerck was demonstrating the stabbing repeatedly as if he was bragging about it.


The next morning, the two men went to retrieve their car,but it was missing.  When they called their girlfriends from NorthCarolina, the police were there.  Their girlfriends eventually drove downand met the two men at their hotel.  The police tracked them to the hotelafter Thomas called his grandmother.  Deputy Charles Vaughn testified thatwhen Merck and Thomas’ abandoned vehicle was discovered, a license plate and aknife were found inside the vehicle.  Merck was taken into custody by thelead investigator of the case, Detective Thomas Nestor, who took the eyewitnessstatement from Sullivan on the night of the incident.


Codefendant Information:


Neil Thomas was not charged as an accessory to the murder ofNewton.  There is also no evidence that Thomas has a prior incarcerationhistory.


Prior Incarceration History in the State of Florida:


Prior Prison History:

Offense Date


Sentence Date


Case No.

Prison Sentence Length






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6Y 0M 0D






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5Y 0M 0D


Prior Community Supervision History:

Offense Date


Sentence Date


Case No.

Community Supervision Length






1Y 0M 0D

Trial Summary:


11/14/91         Indicted as follows:

                                   Count I:          First-Degree Murder

11/06/92         Trial ended in mistrial because the jury was unable to reach a verdict

09/07/93         During the second trial, the jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts of theindictment

09/14/93         Jury recommended death by a vote of 9-3

12/10/93         Sentenced as follows:

                                   Count I:          First-Degree Murder – Death

07/15/97         Resentencing (II) trial commenced

07/18/97         Jury recommended death by a vote of 12-0

09/12/97         Trial judge imposed death sentence

08/06/04         Trial court resentenced (III) Merck to death by a jury vote of 9-3


Appeal Summary:


Florida Supreme Court – Direct Appeal

FSC# 83,063

664 So. 2d 939


01/21/94         Appeal filed

10/12/95         FSC affirmed conviction and remanded for resentencing

10/23/95         Motion for rehearing filed

12/22/95         Rehearing denied

01/24/96         Mandate issued


Florida Supreme Court – Direct Appeal (Resentencing I)

FSC# 91,581

763 So. 2d 295


10/13/97         Appeal filed

07/13/00         FSC vacated death sentence and ordered a complete new penalty-phase proceedingbefore a jury

07/24/00         Motion for rehearing filed

10/10/00         Rehearing denied

11/13/00         Mandate issued


Florida Supreme Court – Direct Appeal (ResentencingII)

FSC# 04-1902

975 So.2d 1054


09/27/04         Appeal filed

12/06/07         FSC affirmed death sentence

12/21/07         Motion for Rehearing filed

02/11/08         Motion for Rehearing denied

02/27/08         Mandate issued


United States Supreme Court – Petition for Writ ofCertiorari

USSC# 07-10853

129 S.Ct. 73


05/09/08         Petition filed

10/06/08         Petition denied


State Circuit Court – 3.850 Motion

CC# 91-16659


09/02/09         Motion filed

08/27/10          Motion denied

09/14/10          Motion for Rehearing filed

10/05/10          Motion stricken


Florida Supreme Court – 3.850 Appeal

FSC# 10-1830



09/17/10          Appeal filed



Factors Contributing to the Delay in Imposition ofSentence:


Merck has undergone three direct appeals, the second andthird being an appeal to be resentenced.  Two direct appeals remanded thecase for resentencing. 


Case Information:


On 01/21/94, Merck filed a Direct Appeal to the FloridaSupreme Court.  He raised five issues.  First, Merck claimed that thetrial court erred in imposing the death sentence.  Second, he argued thatthe death sentence is invalid because the jury heard and the trial judgeconsidered highly prejudicial testimony not relating to any statutoryaggravating circumstance.  Third, Merck contended the trial court erred indenying his motion for mistrial based upon a State witness’ reference to thefirst trial of this case.  Fourth, he claimed that his conviction must bevacated as a result of the State’s bad-faith failure to preserve potentiallyexculpatory evidence.  Finally, Merck claimed the trial court erred ingiving the jury an unconstitutionally vague and overbroad instruction on the“especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel” aggravating factor.  On10/12/95, the Court affirmed Merck’s conviction and remanded for resentencing.


On 10/13/97, Merck filed a Direct Appeal for resentencing tothe Florida Supreme Court.  On 07/13/00, the Court affirmed the convictionbut reversed the death sentence based on the finding that juvenile adjudicationas to a North Carolina shooting incident was not a “conviction” within themeaning of the statute making prior conviction of a violent felony anaggravating factor and that the trial court’s finding of the aggravator washarmful error.  The Court ordered a complete new penalty-phase proceedingbefore a jury.


On 09/27/04, Merck filed another Direct Appeal forresentencing to the Florida Supreme Court.  In an opinion entered on12/06/07, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed Merck’s death sentence.  On12/21/07, Merck filed a Motion for Rehearing in the Florida Supreme Court whichwas denied on 02/11/08.  The Court issued a mandate on 02/27/08.


On 05/09/08, Merck filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorariin the United States Supreme Court.  This petition was denied on 10/06/08.


Merck filed a 3.850 Motion on 09/02/09 to the Circuit Courton 09/02/09. The motion was denied on 08/27/10. A Motion for Rehearing wasfiled on 09/14/10, and it was stricken on 10/05/10.


Merck filed a 3.850 Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court on09/17/10. This case is currently pending.


Institutional Adjustment:


DATE            DAYS            VIOLATION                                    LOCATION      

--------             ----                  ----------------                                       -------------------

05/26/87         15                   POSS OF UNAUTHBEV.               FLORIDA STATE PRISON

02/01/88         45                   ASSAULTS OR ATTEMPT             FLORIDA STATE PRISON

12/12/93         0                     POSS OF CONTRABAND              UNION C. I. 



Report Date:  11/24/04          NRC

Updated:        10/06/10          EMJ