Florida Gov. Rick Scott removed State Attorney Aramis Ayala from the case of accused cop killer Markeith Loyd on Thursday after she announced that she would not pursue the death penalty in this case or any other case she handles during her tenure.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that Scott issued an executive order giving the case to Lake County State Attorney Brad King.
“Earlier today, I called on State Attorney Ayala to immediately recuse herself from this case,” Scott said in a statement. “She informed me this afternoon that she refuses to do that. She has made it clear that she will not fight for justice, and that is why I am using my executive authority to immediately reassign this case.”
A Florida state law allows the governor to appoint a different prosecutor if there is a “good and sufficient reason” to take a case away from the original prosecutor, and Scott cited that law when removing Ayala from the case.
Ayala released a statement Thursday saying that she would abide by Scott’s order.
“Upon receipt of any lawful order, my office will follow that order and fully cooperate to ensure the successful prosecution of Markeith Loyd,” Ayala said.
Ayala had previously announced Thursday morning that she would not be seeking the death penalty against Loyd or anyone else.
“I have determined that doing so is not in the best interest of the community or the best interest of justice,” Ayala said.
According to the Sentinel, Ayala’s announcement came as a surprise because she had never made her stance on the death penalty public before, even during her five-month campaign for state attorney when she was repeatedly asked about it.
Ayala, 42, became state attorney for Orange and Osceola counties on Jan. 3 after she upset incumbent Jeff Ashton in the August primary with the help of $1.4 million in donations from a political action committee with ties to billionaire and liberal activist George Soros, the Sentinel reports.
The primary decided the race for state attorney because no Republican ran.
Ayala cited several reasons for why she will not seek the death penalty, including studies that have shown it provides no public safety benefits, it is not a deterrent and it ends up costing the state more than cases in which the defendant is sentenced to life in prison.
Ayala also said that it provides victims’ families with false hope.
“Some victims will support and some will surely oppose my decision, but I have learned that [the] death penalty traps many victims’ families in [a] decadeslong cycle of uncertainty,” she said. “ ... I cannot in good faith look a victim’s family in the face and promise that a death sentence handed down in our courts will ever result in execution.”
Ayala is right, of course. Those sentenced to death usually spend years on death row exhausting appeals, and that can often lead to the families of victims not getting the closure they need.
It is also strange to me that the governor of Florida is championing killing a man. I get that the death penalty is an option in this case, but is Scott taking this case personally? Would he still be actively championing the death penalty if the only victim in this case were Sade Dixon, Loyd’s ex-girlfriend? Would he have been so ready to appoint a special prosecutor?
Why now, and why this case?
We will all have to wait and see what happens.
Read more at the Orlando Sentinel.