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Meryl Stanley McDONALD





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Murder for hire
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: January 25, 1994
Date of birth: August 15, 1946
Number of victims: Dr. Louis Davidson
Method of murder: Drowning
Location: Pinellas County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on November 16, 1995

Florida Supreme Court

opinion 87059 opinion SC03-648

DC# 180399
DOB:  08/15/46

Sixth Judicial 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 – CCRC-M

Date of Offense:  01/25/94

Date of Sentence:  11/16/95

Circumstances of the Offense:

Denise Davidson 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 Davidson’s apartment. 

Dr. Davidson’s 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.

Codefendant Information:

Robert Roy Gordon (DC# 123911)

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 (CC# 94-2958).

Denise Ann Davidson (DC# 153691)

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).

Susan Shore

Shore agreed to testify for the State, and as a result, her charges were reduced to Accessory After the Fact.  She was sentenced to probation.

Leonardo Cisneros

Cisneros remains a fugitive.

Trial Summary:

04/27/94          Indicted as follows:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder

11/22/94          Defendant pled not guilty

06/15/95          Jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts of the indictment

06/16/95          Jury recommended death by a vote of 9-3

11/16/95          Sentenced as follows:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder – Death 

Case Information:

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.

The Florida 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 02/10/04.

McDonald then 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 appeal. 

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 on 03/28/07. 

McDonald also 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 barred. 

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 03/28/07.



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