Florida Governor has slapped down one of the states most controversial prosecutors. Rick Scott took the extreme action of stripping 21 pending murder cases away from Democrat Aramis Ayala today after she publicly stated that she would no longer seek the death penalty in murder cases. Scott placed the cases under the control of neighboring judicial circuit State Attorney Brad King.
Attorney Ayala has become a major embarrassment to the law and order governors office after she recently announced she wouldn’t seek the death penalty against Markeith Loyd or any other defendant. Loyd, a Black petty criminal, is currently charged with killing an Orlando police lieutenant and his pregnant ex-girlfriend earlier this year in an Orlando Wal-Mart. Scott took the Loyd case away from Ayala last month and reassigned it to King.
Scott told The Associated Press: “If you look at these cases they are horrendous cases. And so I’m going to continue to think about the families and that’s how I made my decision today.” In a statement, Scott added that “Ayala’s complete refusal to consider capital punishment for the entirety of her term sends an unacceptable message that she is not interested in considering every available option in the fight for justice.”
A spokeswoman for the embarrassed Ayala said Scott never notified her office about his order and that the prosecutor instead learned about it through the news media. “Ms. Ayala remains steadfast in her position the Governor is abusing his authority and has compromised the independence and integrity of the criminal justice system,” said Eryka Washington.
Ayala has said she plans to ask the Supreme Court to overturn the governor’s action stripping her of the Loyd case. Ayala’s decision to no longer seek the death penalty for defendants has stirred strong opinions. Civil rights groups and faith groups have praised her, while many Republicans lawmakers and law enforcement have criticized her.
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said regardless of her personal position on the death penalty, Ayala needs to follow the law. “Whenever decisions are made regarding the prosecution of individuals, the prosecutor must take into consideration the will and the desire of the victim’s survivors,” he said.
Of course, the liberal Democratic state Rep. Sean Shaw of Tampa who represents a minority populated district, called Scott’s actions a “gross abuse of his power.” He then went on to say that: “The governor is attempting to set dangerous precedent that would destroy the idea of independence for state attorneys throughout Florida who must now fear political retribution by the state’s most powerful politician if they make a decision he disagrees with,” Shaw said in a news release.
Of course that is total bull, as throughout his term the Governor has gone out of his way to provide the States Attorney’s office with complete autonomy to follow the evidence on every case, even when he did not argree with the decision. But when an official makes a free choice to ignore the obligations of their office under the laws of the state, it is up to the Governor’s office to rectify that situation.