Florida Governor Rick Scott removed a state attorney from the case of an accused cop killer after announcing that she would never seek the death penalty.
Scott had asked Aramis Ayala to recuse herself from the case and when she refused he removed her.
‘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 the case,’ he said.
Scott gave the case to Lake County State Attorney Brad King, citing a Florida law that allows the governor to appoint a different prosecutor if they find a ‘good and sufficient reason’ to take it away from the original prosecutor.
Ayala, who took office in January, issued a statement Thursday, saying that she will cooperate with Scott’s decision.
‘Upon receipt of any lawful order, my office will follow that order and fully cooperate to ensure the successful prosecution of Markeith Loyd,’ she said.
Ayala pointed to time, resources and cost to taxpayers as reasons why she will not pursue the death penalty for Loyd or any accused criminal, CBS News reports.
Loyd, 41, is accused of fatally shooting Orlando Lieutenant Debra Clayton on January 9 outside a Walmart as she tried to apprehend him over the murder of his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon, 24, on December 13.
In Ayala’s surprise announcement, she referenced a bill passed Tuesday that will require a unanimous jury recommendation before judges can impose the death penalty.
‘By choosing to seek life sentences over death, we can assure that violent offenders will never be released,’ said Ayala. ‘They will never continue to drain resources from this state with decades of appeals.’
She highlighted the recent problems with the death penalty in Florida, which had been one of the nation’s most active proponents of the practice.
The US Supreme Court struck down Florida’s death-sentencing scheme last year that reduces the jury’s role to an advisory one and gives judges too much power, the Washington Post reports.
The court’s decision halted executions in Florida, which has not carried out a lethal injection since January 2016.
Orlando Police Chief John Mina said the crimes Loyd is accused of are the reason for having the death penalty
‘Florida’s death penalty has been the cause of considerable legal chaos, uncertainty and turmoil,’ said Ayala, adding that the practice gives victims’ families false hope.
State and local law enforcement officials were sharply critical of Ayala’s decision.
‘To put it bluntly, the law enforcement officers of Central Florida are outraged,’ said Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
Orlando Police Chief John Mina told WESH 2 News that the crimes Loyd is accused of are the reason for having the death penalty.
Attorney General Pam Bondi called the announcement “a blatant neglect of duty and a shameful failure to follow the law”.
State attorneys, which ensure that laws are properly interpreted and enforced, have wide discretion on who they charge with a crime, what charge to file and what penalty to seek, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Florida law does not require state attorneys to seek the death penalty.