State Attorney Ayala's replacement warned of death penalty filing delays in April, emails show

By: Jeff Deal

Updated:

ORLANDO, Fla. - State Attorney Aramis Ayala declared Monday that a missed filing deadline in a potential death penalty case was the fault of Gov. Rick Scott, who has removed her from numerous cases.

The office of State Attorney Scott King, who was given the cases taken away from Ayala, apparently requested to review all first-degree murder cases as they came into her office to prevent just such a missed deadline.

Ayala, who has been at odds with Gov. Rick Scott since she announced her office would not seek the death penalty in any case it prosecuted, said Monday that it wasn’t her fault the deadline was missed.

The case in question is against Emerita Mapp, who is accused of stabbing 20-year-old Zachary Ganoe to death and critically injuring another man at a Kissimmee Days Inn in April.

The case against Mapp was never reviewed by Scott’s office, or by another state attorney, which is why the deadline was missed, Ayala said.

The reason the case was not reviewed would seem to be of Ayala's own making, according to an email exchange with King.

"Without such an orderly process, we will be reacting to law enforcement, or victim family, requests made to the governor," King wrote on April 20. "This would create the potential for speedy trial and (death penalty) filing time issues."

Nearly a month later, Ayala responded saying unless Scott had removed a case from her office, she was in charge of prosecuting it.

"It remains my position that any cases within the Ninth Circuit, without an executive order, remain the sole duty and responsibility of me to prosecute," Ayala wrote on May 15.

Read: Death penalty review panel members prosecuted more than 1,900 cases since 2012, records show

In September, Ayala announced the formation of a death penalty review panel, which would examine potential capital cases and decide if seeking the death penalty was appropriate.

The panel did not review Mapp’s case until after the deadline, which requires that an intent to seek the death penalty be filed within 45 days of the defendant’s arraignment.

Mapp was arraigned on Aug. 23.

“I want to address inaccurate and misleading statements that have come from outside my office,” Ayala said Monday. “The defendant here, Ms. Mapp, committed this murder (on) April 11, which is eight days after the governor pledged to the public that he would identify all the potential death penalty cases" in Orange and Osceola counties.

Read: Anti-death penalty prosecutor's office to seek death penalty, but case not known

While Mapp’s attorneys moved to have the prosecution’s filing of intent to seek the death penalty dismissed, Ayala said her office is ready to litigate the issue.

Scott's office struck back Monday, saying the missed filing was Ayala's fault alone.

“It is outrageous State Attorney Ayala is attempting to pass the blame for her failure," Scott's deputy director of communications McKinley Lewis said in a statement. "Let’s be clear – State Attorney Ayala failed to meet this deadline and she alone is responsible for not fighting for justice for the victims in this case."

Read: 9 Facts: Ongoing death penalty fight between Aramis Ayala, Gov. Scott

In light of the missed deadline, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran called for Scott to remove Ayala from office.

"She should be removed from office," he said. "That's what I believe. I've said that."

When asked about the possibility of removing Ayala from office, Scott said his attention was currently on the potential death penalty cases being prosecuted appropriately.

"Right now, I'm going to focus on reassigning cases," he said.

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