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Michael George BRUNO Sr.





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: August 8, 1986
Date of birth: April 14, 1951
Victim profile: Lionel Merlano
Method of murder: Shooting
LocationBroward County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on September 25, 1987

Supreme Court of Florida

opinion 71419 opinion SC02-467

DC# 658761
DOB: 04/14/51

Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County, Case #86-11892
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable Thomas M. Coker, Jr.
Trial Attorney: C. Craig Stella – Private
Attorneys, Direct Appeal: Steven Malone & Richard Greene - Assistant Public Defenders
Attorneys, Collateral Appeals: William Hennis & Todd Scher – CCRC-S

Date of Offense: 08/08/86

Date of Sentence: 09/25/87

Circumstances of Offense:

Michael George Bruno was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Lionel Merlano on 08/08/86.

According to testimony given by Michael George Bruno, Jr., the defendant’s son, he and his father, Michael George Bruno, Sr., visited the home of Lionel Merlano on the evening of 08/08/86.  After listening to music and drinking beer for a while, Bruno excused himself and went to the bathroom. 

Upon returning, Bruno removed a crowbar from his pants and began striking Merlano.  Merlano was injured, but still alive.  Bruno ordered his son to retrieve a gun that was under the bathroom sink.  When his son returned with the gun, Bruno placed a pillow over Merlano’s head, firing two shots into his head.

Bruno returned numerous times to Merlano’s apartment in order steal all of the stereo equipment and other electronic devices.  Merlano’s body was not discovered until 08/11/86, three days later.

Bruno argued that Merlano’s murder resulted from a fight between the two.  Bruno contended that Merlano was antagonizing his son, and that Merlano retrieved the gun from the bathroom.  Bruno reported that he obtained the gun from Merlano and only shot him as he was reaching for the gun.

Additional Information:

Bruno was on probation for constructive possession when he murdered Lionel Merlano. 

Michael George Bruno, Jr., the defendant’s 15-year-old son, who was present during the murder, was never brought up on any charges as a result of an exculpatory statement given by his father on his behalf.

Trial Summary:

08/13/86          Defendant arrested.

09/11/86          Defendant indicted on:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder

Count II:          Armed Robbery

08/11/87          The jury found the defendant guilty on both counts.

08/12/87          Upon advisory sentencing, the jury, by an 8 to 4 majority, voted for the death penalty.

09/25/87          The defendant was sentenced as followed:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder – Death

Count II:          Armed Robbery – Life in Prison

Case Information:

Bruno filed a Direct Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court on 11/09/87.  In that appeal, Bruno claimed that his confession should have been suppressed because it was coerced through promises regarding the treatment of his son.  In addition, Bruno argued that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of robbery, and that the trial judge erred in instructing the jury on excusable homicide.  Bruno raised numerous other claims in his appeal, which were all summarily denied without discussion.  The Florida Supreme Court affirmed Bruno’s murder conviction and sentence of death on 01/03/91; however, they remanded his case for resentencing regarding his robbery conviction.  The Florida Supreme Court ordered Bruno to be resentenced on that conviction according to sentencing guidelines.  The mandate was issued on 04/01/91.

On 05/24/91, Bruno filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, which was denied on 10/07/91.

On 07/26/93, Bruno filed a Motion to Vacate Judgment and Sentence (3.850) in the State Circuit Court, which was denied on 12/09/97.  He appealed this decision to the Florida Supreme Court on 1/20/98, which was denied on 12/06/01.

On 02/26/02, Bruno filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Florida Supreme Court that was denied on 12/05/02.

Bruno filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari on 05/09/03, which was denied on 10/06/03.

On 09/30/03, Bruno filed a 3.853 Motion for DNA testing in the State Circuit Court, which was subsequently denied on 03/16/04.  Bruno also filed a Successive 3.850 Motion that was denied 03/16/04.

On 04/19/04, Bruno filed a 3.851 Motion and 3.853 Appeal (DNA) in the Florida Supreme Court, which was denied on 12/29/05.

On 03/24/06, Bruno filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus with the U.S. District Court, Southern District that is pending.



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