Florida Death Row Inmate Dies of Cancer

An inmate on Florida’s death row has died of lung cancer, according to reports from another inmate. Michael Bruno, 61, died Oct. 22, only 2 days after the 25-year anniversary of his arrival on death row.

According to the case summary found on the Florida Commission on Capital Cases website, Bruno was sentenced to death for the August 1986 murder of Lionel Merlano. From the summary:

“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.”

Bruno’s son was never charged with any crime because of exculpatory statements Bruno made on his behalf.

As is the norm with a death that is not by execution, Bruno’s death has not been publicized. I came across the news on William Van Poyck’s blog, which is often a source of insight into the every day happenings on Florida’s death row. Here’s what Van Poyck had to say about it:

Another death row guy has died of cancer.  I ran into Michael Bruno (whom I’ve known for over 20 years) in late July when I took a day trip to RMC (Regional Medical Center) for my upper GI tests.  Bruno looked weak and had a persistent cough (the same cough Tom now has) and he’d just been diagnosed with lung cancer, with several spots on his lung X-Rays.  Soon after he began radiation and chemo treatments; Tom saw him almost every day once Tom began his chemo and radiation regimen and Tom reported Bruno’s condition to me each day.  He seemed to be doing pretty well, but on Friday, October 19th, he suddenly got ill and two days later he was dead.  The cause of death, we were told, was septic shock, and I’m guessing the infection found its way into his system via the “port” they’d inserted into his chest to funnel the chemo directly into his lung.  Prisons are filthy so putting a port into a guy’s chest while making him live in a cell is pretty much a prescription for disaster.  This is especially true here in Florida where the DOC long ago quit issuing and buying (we used to manufacture them) the various cleaning chemicals we used to use to clean our cells and the whole prison, from powdered soap, liquid soap, disinfectants, bleach; all that is gone now and we must buy and use shampoo from the canteen to wash our clothes and clean our cells.  This whole decrepit building is filthy and falling apart…

There’s a post Bruno, who started going by Damien at some point on death row, wrote about his life back in 2007 posted in several places online. You can check it out here. In it, he details what his life is like on the row, as well as proclaiming his innocence.

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2 thoughts on “Florida Death Row Inmate Dies of Cancer

  1. Alan Striga says:

    What state and town did micheal Bruno grow up in

  2. Seb says:

    New York. But he was guilty so at least its saved the tax payer a few million dollars keeping another murderer on DR.

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