Florida prosecutor who refuses to seek death penalty has most of her murder cases reassigned

Remember when we talked about Florida State Attorney Aramis Ayala last month? She was assigned the case of Markeith Loyd, a man whose many crimes included executing a police officer in cold blood. Without any warning of her position while running for that office, Aramis declared that she would not seek the death penalty in Loyd’s trial and, just to put some icing on the cake, announced that she wouldn’t be taking that step for any criminals, no matter how heinous their deeds. That got her into a confrontation with Governor Rick Scott (along with an army of enraged constituents) which still hasn’t settled down.

Now it seems that she may not have to worry about it any more. The Governor has made the unusual move of transferring most of her murder trials to somebody else who may be more willing to enforce the current laws of the state. (LA Times)

Florida’s Republican governor on Monday took 21 more first-degree murder cases away from a Democratic prosecutor who has said she will no longer seek the death penalty.

Gov. Rick Scott gave the cases being handled by Orlando-area State Atty. Aramis Ayala to neighboring State Atty. Brad King.

Ayala has come under fire recently after announcing she wouldn’t seek the death penalty against Markeith Loyd or any other defendant. Loyd is charged with killing an Orlando police lieutenant and his pregnant former girlfriend this year. Scott took the Loyd case away from Ayala last month and reassigned it to King.

“If you look at these cases, they are horrendous cases,” Scott told the Associated Press. “And so I’m going to continue to think about the families, and that’s how I made my decision today.”

Ayala has announced her intention to appeal to the state supreme court in an effort to have the Governor’s decision reversed, but it’s really not clear if that’s even within their power. It’s not as if she was fired from her job or received some sort of disciplinary action. There was, in essence, just a management decision made as to how to assign the caseload. If the court wants to dig any further than that they can consider both the fact that Ayala was elected without ever telling the voters that she planned to do this and the way she is hamstringing the judicial system.

That second point is particularly ironic in light of her public comments about this decision. Her spokesperson told reporters that it was the Governor who had, “compromised the independence and integrity of the criminal justice system.” But the integrity of the criminal justice system includes enforcement of the law and the full range of penalties under those laws which have been approved by the voters through their elected representatives. For the time being, capital punishment is on the books and one level of deterrent which Floridians feel enhances their security.

This situation is considerably more complicated because the position of State Attorney is an elected one in Florida. In many other states Ayala might simply have been fired. (Yes, she could have appealed that, but her case load would have been reshuffled in the meantime anyway.) As it stands, it might require impeachment of some form to put her out of office. In the meantime, with these cases int he hands of Brad King, they should move forward with the full set of approved options on the table.