Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala said Monday she is pushing back against Gov. Rick Scott's decision last week to remove her from the case of accused cop killer Markeith Loyd.
Ayala's announcement that she could not/would not impose the death penalty in the Loyd or any other first-degree murder case raised the governor's hackles. He immediately appointed special prosecutor Brad King to take over.
During a Monday hearing for Loyd, Ayala showed up and took a seat as close to King as she could get. She said she still wants to be part of the prosecution.
The Orlando Sentinel reported, "When the hearing began, the judge asked attorneys to give their names and identify who they represent -- a common practice -- and Ayala was the first to jump up and speak. 'I need to be clear: I think the governor overstepped his bounds,' she said.
"Although, she is not yet sure what she’ll do, she said, she will not interfere with King," said the Sentinel.
Ayala complained to Chief Judge Frederick Lauten that what the governor did was unprecedented. She said she may file a legal challenge and asked the judge to temporarily halt the two murder cases against Lloyd while she figures out what to do.
In a statement last Thursday, Scott said, “Earlier today, I called on State Attorney Ayala to immediately recuse herself from this case. 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.”
Scott cited a state law allowing him to appoint a different prosecutor if he finds a “good and sufficient reason” to do so.
Ayala, Florida's first African-American state attorney, took office Jan. 3. Though she received a campaign donation from notorious anti-death penalty billionaire George Soros, the Sentinel reported she waffled on the death penalty during her five-month campaign and never did state her position.
Loyd is charged with murdering Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton on Jan. 9 and, several weeks earlier, his pregnant former girlfriend, Sade Dixon.
The problem ahead for the Governor's Office is knowing Orange-Osceola has a minimum of 12 cases pending in which the death penalty is an option. The Loyd case is just the beginning for Ayala.
On the other hand, more than 100 lawyers, two former Florida Supreme Court justices included and three dozen current and former judges and prosecutors have gone to bat for Ayala, saying Scott has gone too far. They signed a letter asking the governor to rescind his decision and give the case back to the elected prosecutor.
Lauten has scheduled a hearing for March 28 at 9 a.m. to consider whether Ayala has the authority to ask for a delay or participate in the case.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith.