'Negligence' or 'willful disregard,' Gov. Scott demands Ayala explain missed death penalty filing

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida Gov. Rick Scott sent a letter Monday demanding information on why State Attorney Aramis Ayala missed the deadline to file a motion to seek the death penalty in a Kissimmee murder case.

Scott has removed numerous death penalty cases from Ayala after she announced her office would not seek the death penalty in any case her office prosecutes.

She took Scott to court, unsuccessfully, over his ability to remove cases from her office, and in Monday’s letter, Scott also wants records on how much taxpayer money was spent during the court fight.

The case in question is against Emerita Mapp, who is charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Zackery Ganoe at a Kissimmee hotel.

Mapp was arraigned on the charges on Aug. 23 and the state had 45 days to file an intent to seek the death penalty in the case.

Ayala’s office, following the decision by a death penalty review panel formed in response to Scott’s removal of cases, filed the death penalty intent motion on Oct. 31.

Ayala blamed Scott’s actions regarding death penalty cases for missing the deadline; Scott blames Ayala, insinuating that she may have purposefully not filed in time to take the death penalty off the table in Mapp’s case.

“Most troublingly, your more recent public comments indicate that you were well aware of the deadline, but knowingly filed the notice long after it had elapsed,” Scott’s Monday letter said. “At best, this suggests negligence – and at worst, willful disregard – in the faithful performance of the duties of your constitutional office.”

WFTV legal analyst and former Chief Judge Belvin Perry said Scott's ultimate determination on how and/or why the deadline was missed is key to Ayala's future as a state attorney.

"When someone willfully does something, it may require harsher punishment, which could include her removal (from office)," Perry said.

Among other things, Scott’s office demanded a written response by Dec. 11 on the following questions:

Why Ayala decided to form a death penalty review panel and how members were selected.

A description of procedures used by the review panel to determine if the death penalty is appropriate in a case.

Dates the review panel has met since being formed on Sept. 1.

Any other records regarding the death penalty review panel.

Records pertaining to Kivvit, a Washington public relations firm retained by Ayala’s office during her court fight with Scott, including taxpayer money used to pay the company, outside attorneys and/or contractors.

“As you know, Gov. Scott stands with the victims of crime and is committed to doing everything within his power to ensure they receive the justice they deserve,” Scott’s Monday letter said. “In light of your office’s delinquent filing – and your ongoing attempts to blame others for your office’s failures – Floridians deserve to better understand what happened, what you intend to do to remedy the situation, and what steps you intend to take to ensure that a similar failure will never occur again.”

Perry said Scott's request for information was well within his rights as governor.

"All these questions that were asked in that letter are reasonable questions to determine whether or not she is faithfully carrying out her duties," Perry said.

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