Anti-death-penalty prosecutor challenges Florida governor


A Florida state attorney says the governor overstepped his bounds when he removed her from a case after she pledged to not pursue the death penalty in any cases.

State Attorney Aramis Ayala filed a motion in court Monday asking a judge to allow her to present that argument in court.

"Every day State Attorneys here in Florida make important decisions on who to charge, what to charge and what to prioritize," Ayala wrote in the motion. "Giving the governor the tremendous and unfettered discretion to interfere in that decision making would be unprecedented and could undermine the entire justice system in Florida."

Gov. Rick Scott removed Ayala from Markeith Loyd's case and reassigned it to a prosecutor in a neighboring district after Ayala made her announcement against the death penalty last Thursday. Loyd is charged with first-degree murder in the killings of Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton and his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon.

When asked in Tallahassee about Ayala's motion, Scott said he was shocked that Ayala wouldn't seek the death penalty in Loyd's case.

"I'm very comfortable that I made the right decision and I had the authority to do it," Scott said.

Scott said he would "deal with it at the time" if Ayala declined to seek the death penalty in other cases. He also did not rule out seeking her removal.

"With regards to that, we're continuing to look at our options," he said.

The confusion over who will prosecute the case was evident Monday morning during a routine status hearing for Loyd's case. Both Aramis and State Attorney Brad King, the prosecutor appointed by Scott to take over the case, were in the courtroom together.

Judge Frederick Lauten scheduled a hearing for next week to hear arguments over who should handle the case.

Ayala said in Monday's motion that the governor had no authority to remove her.

"I retain complete authority over charging and prosecution decisions," she said.

Meanwhile, almost 120 law experts from across the country sent Scott a letter urging him to reverse his decision, saying it infringed on the independence of prosecutors. The signees included two former justices of the Florida Supreme Court, a former president of the American Bar Association and dozens of law professors.

___

Gary Fineout in Tallahassee, Florida contributed to this report.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Texas state trooper killed during traffic stop
Texas state trooper killed during traffic stop

A Texas state trooper was shot and killed during a traffic stop on Thursday, WFAA reported. Damon Allen, 41, was a 15-year veteran of the Texas Highway Patrol. He was shot and killed at about 4 p.m. on Interstate 45 just south of Fairfield, WFAA reported.  The Texas Department of Public Safety said Allen had pulled over the suspect's vehicle...
Troopers: Naked couple crashes car while having sex; baby was in back seat
Troopers: Naked couple crashes car while having sex; baby was in back seat

A naked couple, having sex in their car while their baby was in the back seat, crashed while driving, the Washington State Patrol said. The man was driving on Highway 7 near La Grande in Pierce County, naked and having sex with a woman who also was naked, when he missed a curve, went off the road and struck a tree, State Patrol spokeswoman Brooke...
Sheriff: Michigan deputy run down by car during police pursuit
Sheriff: Michigan deputy run down by car during police pursuit

A Michigan deputy with 22 years of experience was killed early Thursday morning when he was hit by a man driving a vehicle who was fleeing police, the Detroit Free Press reported. Deputy Eric Overall, 50, died when he was “deliberately ran down” after putting down “stop sticks” to slow down the suspect’s vehicle...
Trump in Palm Beach: Coast Guard visit, calls to troops, golf and dinner photos
Trump in Palm Beach: Coast Guard visit, calls to troops, golf and dinner photos

UPDATE, 11:55 p.m.: After Thanksgiving dinner, President Trump took to Twitter to retweet good wishes to Fox News host Sean Hannity and prominent Trump supporters Diamond and Silk. UPDATE, 9:30 p.m.: Some photos have surfaced on social media of the Thanksgiving dinner Donald Trump and his family had at Mar-a-Lago. UPDATE 5:55 p.m.: The...
UPDATE: Missing West Palm man found safe
UPDATE: Missing West Palm man found safe

UPDATE, 11:45 p.m.: Pierre Borgelin has been found and is safe, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. ORIGINAL STORY: The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is asking for help in finding a 93-year-old West Palm Beach man who is considered possibly endangered. Pierre Borgelin, 93, was last seen walking away from the 1900 block...
More Stories