Circuit, Pinellas County, Case# 94-02958
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable Susan F. Schaeffer
Attorneys, Trial: Michael Schwartzberg & Richard N. Watts – Private
Attorney, Direct Appeal: Richard N. Watts – Private
Attorneys, Collateral Appeals: Peter J. Cannon & Daphney E. Gaylord –
Date of Offense:
of the Offense:
and her fiancé, Leonardo Cisnero, hired Robert Gordon and Meryl
McDonald, to kill Ms. Davidson’s estranged husband, Dr. Louis Davidson.
Early on the
morning of 01/25/94, McDonald and Gordon waited in the parking lot of
the apartment complex where Dr. Davidson lived. The two were driven by
Susan Shore. Gordon met with Dr. Davidson and the two walked to
body was discovered later that day by his fiancée. His body was
blindfolded, bound, gagged, and hog-tied, lying face down in a bathtub
full of bloody water. The apartment had been ransacked, and Davidson’s
watch, camera, and money clip were missing, although $19,300 in cash and
some credit cards remained.
The medical examiner testified that Davidson had bruises
on his face and shoulders, three broken ribs, and multiple lacerations
on the back of his scalp, caused by a blunt object. The cause of
Davidson’s death was drowning.
Money transfers from Denise Davidson to McDonald, as well as phone
records and physical evidence recovered from the hotel where Gordon and
McDonald were staying during the time of the murder, implicated McDonald
in the murder scheme.
Robert Roy Gordon (DC#
For his involvement in the murder, Gordon
was tried with McDonald and was found guilty of first-degree murder.
Gordon was also sentenced to death
Denise Ann Davidson (DC#
Davidson was found guilty of first-degree murder in a separate trial.
She was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole
for 25 years (CC# 94-2958).
agreed to testify for the State, and as a result, her charges were
reduced to Accessory After the Fact. She was sentenced to probation.
Cisneros remains a
04/27/94 Indicted as follows:
I: First-Degree Murder
11/22/94 Defendant pled not guilty
06/15/95 Jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts of the
06/16/95 Jury recommended death by a vote of 9-3
11/16/95 Sentenced as follows:
I: First-Degree Murder – Death
McDonald filed a
Direct Appeal to the Florida Supreme Court on 12/22/95. On 04/14/97, the
Florida Supreme Court granted a pro se motion to dismiss Richard Sanders
as McDonald’s attorney. On 05/27/97, the initial appellant’s brief was
struck and on 06/18/97 Richard N. Watts became McDonald’s attorney.
McDonald raised eight issues on appeal. Many of these issues were
parallel to the issues raised by Gordon on his appeal, specifically
denying Gordon’s motion to strike the venire; denying motion for
judgment of acquittal at the close of evidence; denying request for a
separate penalty phase from that of his co-defendant and a new penalty
phase jury; disproportional sentencing; and improper finding of the
cold, calculated, and premeditated and heinous, atrocious, or cruel
aggravating factors. Due to the fact that the evidence against McDonald
was synonymous to the evidence against Gordon, the Florida Supreme Court
rejected them on the same basis.
Supreme Court found two of the issues not cognizant on appeal and no
error on the remaining issues; therefore, the Court affirmed McDonald’s
conviction and sentence on 07/01/99. The rehearing was denied on
09/17/99 and the mandate was issued on 10/18/99.
McDonald filed a
3.850 Motion to the Circuit Court on 12/15/00. The motion was denied on
filed a 3.850 Appeal to the Florida Supreme Court on 03/31/03.
McDonald’s CCRC counsel raised several claims on appeal, which were not
adequately presented because McDonald failed to raise them when he was
allowed to represent himself during the post-conviction proceedings.
The claims were: (1) the Faretta inquiry, (2) Brady and Giglio claims,
and (3) ineffective assistance of counsel. The Court denied all claims
and concluded that, since the lower court properly allowed McDonald to
represent himself, these claims may not be raised for the first time on
On 11/02/06, the
Court affirmed the lower court’s denial of McDonald’s 3.850 Motion. The
Motion for Rehearing was denied on 03/12/07 and the mandate was issued
filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus to the Florida Supreme Court
on 04/30/04. McDonald claimed that he is entitled to relief because:
(1) the United States Supreme Court decided Ring, and (2) the trial
court conducted an inadequate inquiry under Faretta. The Court decided
that, since Ring was decided after McDonald’s convictions became final,
the Ring claim is inapplicable to this case. The claim raises no new
issues and is therefore without merit. For the Faretta inquiry, the
Court stated that habeas petitions cannot be used as a means to seek a
second appeal or to litigate issues that could have been or were raised
in a post-conviction appeal. Thus, the Faretta claim was procedurally
On 11/02/06, the
Court denied McDonald’s Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus. The Motion
for Rehearing was denied on 03/12/07 and the mandate was issued on