Prosecutor continues battling Scott over removal


Central Florida State Attorney Aramis Ayala is pushing forward with a challenge to Gov. Rick Scott’s removal of her from 22 death penalty cases, including a high-profile case involving accused cop-killer Markeith Loyd.

Scott stripped Ayala, the newly elected prosecutor in Orange and Osceola counties, from the Loyd case after she announced last month she did not intend to seek the death penalty for Loyd or any other defendants in capital cases during her time in office.

Scott reassigned the Loyd case to outspoken death penalty proponent Brad King, the Ocala-area state attorney for the 5th Judicial Circuit, and last week put King in charge of 21 other death penalty cases currently being handled by Ayala’s office.

After Ayala challenged Scott’s authority to remove her from the Loyd case, a circuit judge refused to put the case on hold while Ayala moved forward with her legal challenge.

More than 100 legal experts, most of them death penalty opponents, and Ayala contend that Scott acted outside his executive role by reassigning the case, arguing that prosecutors like Ayala enjoy broad discretion in deciding whether to seek the death penalty in capital cases.

On Thursday, Ayala’s attorney, Roy Austin, requested that Attorney General Pam Bondi begin the process of asking a higher court to decide whether Scott has the authority to take the cases out of Ayala’s hands. The request came despite Bondi’s public condemnation of Ayala’s decision not to seek death in capital cases.

“By unconstitutional and unlawful executive orders issued by Gov. Rick Scott, State Attorney Brad King is wrongfully purporting to exercise the right of State Attorney Ayala to prosecute a number of cases in the Ninth Judicial Circuit,” wrote Austin, an attorney with the Washington, D.C.-based Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis law firm, in a letter asking Bondi to initiate what is called a petition for “quo warranto” writ.

Austin gave Bondi until 5 p.m. Monday to notify him about Bondi’s intentions and indicated Ayala would pursue the legal matter on her own if the attorney general refused.

Late Friday, Associate Deputy Attorney General Chesterfield Smith Jr. told Austin that Bondi’s office “declines to commence such a proceeding” and “may seek to appear in any such proceeding to ensure that the laws of this state are properly interpreted and faithfully enforced.”

Austin acknowledged in a statement that the request of Bondi was largely procedural, and her response was no surprise.

“While we are realists about Attorney General Bondi’s position in this matter, we filed this request as part of the proper procedure in contesting Gov. Scott’s unlawful abuse of authority. As noted in our letter, if Attorney General Bondi fails to respond or refuses to initiate this action by the deadline, State Attorney Ayala will file an action to show that Gov. Scott’s dangerous overreach threatens the independence and integrity of Florida’s judicial system,” Austin said.

Ayala has until Tuesday to file a motion asking a higher court to rule on the issue.

Ayala’s refusal to pursue the death penalty for Loyd — accused of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon, and the execution-style murder of Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton — elicited the wrath of Republican House members, who are pushing Scott to oust the prosecutor for failing to do her job.

But her position about Florida’s embattled death penalty, on hold for more than a year as a result of state and federal court decisions, has heartened opponents of capital punishment and created an even deeper divide between the two sides on the issue.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

2 dead after shooting at Penn State Beaver campus
2 dead after shooting at Penn State Beaver campus

Two people died Wednesday afternoon in a shooting reported at the Penn State Beaver campus, WPXI confirmed.
UPDATE: All clear after threat evacuates Delray Beach Walmart
UPDATE: All clear after threat evacuates Delray Beach Walmart

UPDATE, 4:15 p.m.: Delray Beach police report they’ve cleared the scene and the store has reopened. A threat has forced Delray Beach police to evacuate the Walmart Neighborhood Market on Federal Highway south of Linton Boulevard, the agency said in a Twitter post. The agency said it so far has found nothing suspicious. This is a developing story...
Kris Jenner buys home across from Kim Kardashian, Kanye West
Kris Jenner buys home across from Kim Kardashian, Kanye West

Kris Jenner is now the proud owner of a mansion that has six bedrooms, eight baths, a movie theater and a workout room, according to People, and her new property is close to where one of her daughters lives. Across the street is the home owned by her daughter Kim Kardashian West and son-in-law Kanye West. The housing arrangement is not...
Being stubborn may help you live longer, new study suggests
Being stubborn may help you live longer, new study suggests

Stubbornness may actually be a trait that helps people live longer, a new study suggests. Published this week in the academic journal "International Psychogeriatrics", the study examined the mental and physical health of elderly Italians living in a remote village nestled between the Mediterranean Sea and mountains. The researchers behind...
Boynton Beach school food manager gets a huge surprise at lunch
Boynton Beach school food manager gets a huge surprise at lunch

Charlie Peterman, the food services manager for Crosspointe Elementary School, had finished serving lunch for students Wednesday when a coworker brought her into the cafeteria. Peterman thought she had been called in to talk more about a new product ConAgra Foods was testing. Instead, Peterman found herself the center of attention. Principal Ann Marie...
More Stories