The Commission on Capital Cases was not funded in the FY 2011-2012 General Appropriations Act, and the Commission ceased operations on June 30, 2011. This site and the Commission website are being retained to provide access to historical materials.

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These actions are effective July 1, 2011.

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Last NameFirst NamePictureDC NumberAgencyCase Summary
Oats Jr.Sonny 051769CCRC-SCase Summary

Last Action

DateCourtCase NumberLast Action
11/30/2004CC8000016 (RS)3.851 Motion filed
11/3/2006CC8000016 (RS)Mental retardation hearing
3/16/2007CC8000016 (RS)SC
3/29/2007CC8000016 (RS)Response to 3.851
10/22/2008CC8000016 (RS)Evidentiary Hearing held
4/2/2009CC8000016 (RS)Status Conference
7/20/2009CC8000016 (RS)Status Conference

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. 


OATS, Jr., Sonny Boy (B/M)

DC#    051769

DOB:  05/25/57


Fifth Judicial Circuit, Marion County Case# 80-16

Sentencing Judge:  The Honorable William T. Swigert

Attorneys, Trial:  Theodore N. Taylor & Frank T.Johnson – Asst. Public Defenders

Attorneys, Direct Appeal:  James B. Gibson &Cynthia Karl-Stamm – Asst. Public Defenders

Attorney, Collateral Appeals:  Martin J. McClain –CCRC-S


Date of Offense:  12/20/79

Date of Sentence:  02/10/81

Date of Resentence:  04/26/84


Circumstances of Offense:


Sonny Boy Oats, Jr. was convicted of first-degree murder androbbery with a firearm on 01/30/80.  He was sentenced to death for murderand 99 years for robbery with a firearm.


On 12/20/79, Jeanette Dyer, the clerk at the Little CountryStore in Martel, Florida, was found lying on the floor with a gunshot wound,which penetrated her right eye and brain.  When Dyer was discovered, shehad a faint heartbeat but died shortly after arriving at the hospital.  Atthe store, money was missing from the cash register.


On 12/24/79, an Ocala policeman observed a vehicle with twosuspicious-looking men inside it, who were customers of the Jiffy FoodStore.  As the officer approached the vehicle, the men sped away, leadingto a high-speed chase between the officer and the suspects.  During thechase, the vehicle crashed, but the two men were not immediatelyapprehended.  Donnie Williams was arrested shortly after the crash andtransported to the Marion County Jail.  Oats was present at the jailinquiring about Williams’ release.  Before he could get a response, Oatswas informed that he was a suspect in the high-speed chase and wasarrested. 


Oats admitted to, not only his involvement in the high-speedchase, but also to the robbery of the Little Country Store and the murder ofDyer, the store’s clerk.  Subsequently, he confessed to a robbery of anABC Liquor Store and the shooting of the store’s clerk, which took place oneday prior to the Little Country Store robbery.  Oats directed policeofficers to a site where he had tossed his weapon subsequent to the high-speedchase.  According to his statements of the ABC Liquor Store shooting, Oatsclaimed that he did not intend to shoot the clerk.  At some time duringthe robbery, his foot slipped and his gun fired, the bullet hit the counter andalmost shot the clerk. 


On June 1980, Oats was tried for the ABC Liquor Storerobbery and shooting (Case #80-15 CFA), prior to and separate from the LittleCountry Store robbery and shooting.  He was convicted of robbery with afirearm and second-degree murder.  Oats escaped from jail shortly after hewent into custody at the Marion County Jail.  About six months later, Oatswas recaptured in Texas by federal agents and sent back to the Marion CountyJail.


On 01/30/80, Oats was indicted for the Little Country Storerobbery and murder.  At his trial, the state introduced evidence tyingOats to the ABC robbery and shooting, as the same weapon was used for bothrobberies and shootings.


Codefendant Information:


During Oats’ indictment, evidence was presented that DonnieWilliams was also involved in the Little Country Store homicide, but was notcharged.  Additional evidence was presented in the Rule 3.850 hearingconcerning his involvement.


Prior Incarceration History in the State of Florida:



Prior Prison History: (Note: Data reflected covers periods of incarceration with the Florida Dept. of Corrections since January of 1983)

Offense Date


Sentence Date


Case No.

Prison Sentence Length








5Y 0M 0D




Prior Community Supervision History: (Note: Data reflected covers periods of community supervision with the Florida Dept. of Corrections since January of 1983)

Offense Date


Sentence Date


Case No.

Community Supervision Length








1Y 5M 0D





Trial Summary:


01/30/80         Indicted as follows:

                                   Count I:          First-Degree Murder

                                   Count II:         Robbery with aFirearm           

02/06/81         Jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts of the indictment

02/10/81         Jury recommended death by a vote of 12-0

02/10/81         Sentenced as follows:

                                   Count I:          First-Degree Murder – Death

                                   Count II:         Robbery with aFirearm – 99 years

04/26/84         Trial court resentenced Oats to death


Appeal Summary:


Florida Supreme Court – Direct Appeal

FSC# 60,489

446 So. 2d 90 (Fla. 1984)


04/08/81         Appeal filed

02/23/84         FSC affirmed conviction and remanded for a new sentencing order

04/03/84         Mandate issued


Florida Supreme Court – Direct Appeal (Resentencing)

FSC# 65,381

472 So. 2d 1143 (Fla. 1985)


06/01/84         Appeal filed

04/25/85         FSC affirmed the sentence of death

05/15/85         Motion for rehearing filed

08/16/85         FSC denied rehearing

10/02/85         Mandate issued


United States Supreme Court – Petition for Writ ofCertiorari

USSC# 85-5119

474 US 865


06/24/85         Petition filed

10/07/85         Petition denied


Circuit Court – 3.850 Motion

CC# 80-16


10/07/87         Motion filed

02/19/90         Evidentiary hearing held

11/21/90         Motion denied

12/15/90         Motion for rehearing filed

02/26/91         Rehearing denied


Florida Supreme Court – Petition for Writ of HabeasCorpus

FSC# 74,194

638 So. 2d 20 (Fla. 1994)


05/23/89         Petition filed

03/31/94         Petition denied

05/06/94         Motion for rehearing filed

06/13/94         Rehearing denied and mandate issued


Florida Supreme Court – 3.850 Appeal

FSC# 77,645

638 So 2d. 20 (Fla. 1994)


03/25/91         Appeal filed

03/31/94         FSC affirms trial court’s denial of Oats’s 3.850 Motion

05/06/94         Motion for rehearing filed

06/13/94         Rehearing denied and mandate issued


United States District Court Middle District –Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus

USDC# 94-164


08/12/94         Petition filed

07/15/96         Petition denied


United States Supreme Court – Petition for Writ ofCertiorari

USSC# 94-6560

513 U.S. 1087


10/20/94         Petition filed

01/09/95         Petition denied

United States Court of Appeals – Habeas Appeal

USCA# 96-3725

141 F.3d 1018 (1998)


12/03/96         Appeal filed

05/19/98         USCA affirms denial

06/12/98         Motion for rehearing filed

11/17/98         Rehearing denied

12/02/98         Mandate issued


United States Supreme Court – Petition for Writ ofCertiorari

USSC# 98-8923

527 U.S. 1008


04/08/99         Petition filed

06/14/99         Petition denied


Florida Supreme Court – 3.850 Appeal (counsel issues)

FSC# 00-3

753 So. 2d 565 (Fla. 2000)


01/03/00         Motion filed

01/10/00         Motion to dismiss filed

02/24/00         Motion denied and motion to dismiss granted


State Circuit Court – 3.850 Motion

CC# 80-16


03/15/02         Motion filed

11/25/02         Evidentiary hearing held

01/24/05         The lower court denied claims 4 and 5


State Circuit Court – 3.851 Motion

CC# 80-16



11/30/04         Motion filed


Death Warrant:


04/18/89         Death warrant signed by Governor Robert Martinez and execution set for 06/20/89

06/02/89         Trial court grants stay of execution


Clemency Hearing:


08/28/87         Interview conducted by Florida Parole Commissioner Charles H. Lawson

09/03/87         Hearing held before Clemency Board and denied


Factors Contributing to the Delay in Imposition ofSentence:


On 06/14/80, Oats escaped from the Marion County Jail. Six months later, on 12/14/80, Oats was arrested and taken into custody inTexas and then returned to the Marion County Jail.


The FSC took three years to complete the Direct Appeal, tookfive years to decide on the Habeas petition and three years to decide the first3.850 Appeal. 


The Circuit Court also took three years to decide Oats’first 3.850 Motion, and almost three years for Oats’ second 3.850 Motion. 


Case Information:


Oats raised six issues pertaining to the guilt phase of hisDirect Appeal, which took place on 04/08/81.  First, Oats claimed that thetrial court erred by its failure to suppress his confessions in that they werenot free and voluntary, but were extracted by a type of mental coercion. Second, Oats argued that he was denied the right to a fair and impartial trialby the court’s failure to sequester the jury.  Third, Oats contended thatthe trial judge erred by failing to grant a change of venue on the grounds thatthe pretrial publicity was persuasive, inflammatory and prejudicial. Fourth, Oats claimed that the trial court erred by allowing the state to useOats’ confession of the ABC robbery and shooting.  Fifth, Oats argued thatthe prosecutor made prejudicial and inflammatory remarks in the course of thetrial.  Finally, Oats claimed that the trial court erred in denying hismotion for a directed verdict of acquittal and new trial and accepting theguilty verdict of premeditated murder, which was claimed to be against theweight and sufficiency of the evidence.  On 02/03/84, the Florida SupremeCourt affirmed Oats’ conviction and remanded for a new sentencing order. 


On 06/01/84, Oats filed a Direct Appeal for resentencing tothe Florida Supreme Court.  On 04/25/85, the Court affirmed his deathsentence. 


Oats filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the UnitedStates Supreme Court on 06/24/85, which was denied on 10/07/85.


On 10/07/87, Oats filed a 3.850 Motion to the Circuit Court,which was denied on 11/21/90.  Oats filed a motion for a rehearing on12/15/90, which was denied 02/26/91.


On 05/23/89, Oats filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpusto the Florida Supreme Court.  This petition was pending for five yearsbefore it was decided on 03/31/94.  On 05/06/94, Oats filed a motion for arehearing.  His motion was denied on 06/13/94 and a mandate was issued.


While Oats was petitioning a Writ of Habeas Corpus, Oatsfiled a 3.850 Appeal to the Florida Supreme Court on 03/25/91. After a three-yeardelay in their decision, the Court affirmed the trial court’s denial on03//31/94.  Oats filed a motion for a rehearing on 05/06/94, which wasdenied and a mandate was issued on 06/13/94.


Oats filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus to the UnitedStates District Court, Middle District on 08/12/94, which was denied on07/15/96.


While Oats was petitioning for a Writ of Habeas Corpus, healso filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the United States Supreme Courton 10/20/94, which was denied on 01/09/95.


Oats filed Habeas Appeal to the United States Court ofAppeals on 12/03/96.  The denial was affirmed on 05/19/98.  Oatsfiled a motion for a rehearing on 06/12/98, which was denied on 11/17/98. 


Oats filed another Petition for Writ of Certiorari to theUnited States Supreme Court on 04/08/99, which was denied on 06/14/99.


On 03/15/02, Oats filed a second 3.850 Motion to the CircuitCourt, pending Florida Supreme Court appeals with Thomas v State (FSC# 00-1092)and Miller v State (FSC# 01-837) – cases involving mental retardationissues.  On 11/25/02, an evidentiary hearing was held on the followingfive claims that:  (1) the death sentence violated florida’sconstitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, (2) the deathsentence violated the equal protection and due process clause to the 14thAmendment of the United States and Florida Constitutions, (3) the deathsentence stands in violation of the 8th and 14th Amendments to the UnitedStates Constitution, (4) due to conflict of interest, counsel should bepermitted to withdraw and Oats should be provided with conflict-free collateralcounsel, and (5) Florida’s capital sentencing statute violates the 6th and 14thAmendments.  On 01/24/05, the lower court granted an evidentiary hearingfor claims 1-3 for the purposes of determining whether Oats is mentallyretarded, and denied claims 4 and 5 as successive and procedurallybarred. 


On 11/30/04, Oats filed a 3.851 Motion to the Circuit Court,which is currently pending.

Institutional Adjustment:


DATE            DAYS            VIOLATION                                    LOCATION       

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

06/18/83         0                     ASSAULTS OR ATTEMPT             NEW RIVER "O" UNIT 

02/20/84         30                   FAILURE TO COMPLY                 NEW RIVER "O" UNIT 

04/15/86         15                   DISOBEYING ORDER                   FLORIDA STATE PRISON

06/30/86         180                 ASSAULTS ORATTEMPT             FLORIDA STATE PRISON

03/21/88         60                   DISOBEYING ORDER                   FLORIDA STATE PRISON

04/06/88         180                 UNARMEDASSAULT                   FLORIDA STATE PRISON

10/12/89         30                   FIGHTING                                        FLORIDA STATE PRISON

12/01/90         0                     DISORDERLY CONDUCT            FLORIDA STATE PRISON

02/27/94         0                     DISORDERLY CONDUCT            UNION C. I.        

08/11/95         0                     DISRESP.TO OFFICIALS              UNION C. I.        

02/26/02         0                     LYING TO STAFF                           UNION C. I.        

12/13/03         0                     LYING TO STAFF                           UNION C. I.        




Report Date   11/05/04          NRC

Approved       11/05/04          JFL

Updated:        11/07/08          AEH