ORLANDO, Fla. - Since she took office six months ago, State Attorney Aramis Ayala has faced controversy and criticism, especially concerning the death penalty and her refusal to pursue it during her time in office.
Some have called Ayala soft on crime, but analysis of the more than 20,000 cases handled by the state attorney's office since she took charge reveals that her performance has not been much different than that of her predecessor.
Ayala is currently fighting Gov. Rick Scott in the Florida Supreme Court over her removal from pending death penalty cases in her jurisdiction.
The vast majority of the cases her office handles are not high-profile affairs, though, and compared to former state attorneys, her record is not much different.
WFTV legal analysts Bill Sheaffer and Belvin Perry both agreed that not much has changed in the number of cases that never go to trial.
Most cases, about 98 percent, don’t make it to trial, and about three-quarters of them involve defendants who plead guilty or take plea bargains.
Compared to former State Attorney Jeff Ashton, Ayala’s record so far is only about a percentage point different.
She has seen an uptick of cases being dismissed by judges on the grounds that prosecutors failed to present enough evidence to proceed to a trial.
There has also been an increase in the number of cases not prosecuted due to a lack of evidence, which can happen for a number of reasons, Sheaffer said.
“Something has happened from the point in time the case was filed that renders the case not prosecutable,” he said. “Witnesses disappear. Evidence changes.”
In general, though, records show that Ayala has dropped charges less often than Ahston did, and her apparently more efficient running of the office has basically counteracted any losses she has seen.
Ayala has repeatedly declined to comment to Channel 9 on her time in office so far.
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