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Merrit Alonso SIMS





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery - To avoid arrest
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: June 11, 1991
Date of birth: August 10, 1966
Victim profile: Charles Stafford (police officer)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Dade County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on March 18, 1994

Supreme Court of Florida


opinion 83612

opinion SC04-1879


DC#  436015

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 S. Waxman – 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.

Additional Information:

Prior Incarceration History in the State of Florida: 

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          Sims was 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.

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

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.


New Trial for Convicted Miami Springs Cop Killer

By Theo Karantsalis -

June 09, 2009

In 1994, Merrit Alonso Sims was convicted of murdering Miami Springs Police Officer Charles Stafford.

Sims, 43, of Liberty City, was sentenced by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Thomas Carney to the electric chair and sat on death row for the next 13 years.

On July 12, 2007, the Florida Supreme Court vacated Sims' convictions and sentence and remanded the case to be re-tried in Miami-Dade County court.

In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that "there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different."

According to the decision, as Stafford was handcuffing him, Sims struck the officer in the head with his police radio, robbed him of his police pistol, and shot him twice. Sims admitted shooting Stafford, but asserted from the outset that he had done so in self-defense after Officer Stafford had choked him, used racial epithets and repeatedly threatened to kill him.

The new trial is scheduled to start in July and will be heard by Judge John W. Thornton.


Merrit Alonso Sims



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