• Aramis Ayala speaks about new death penalty review panel

    By: Jason Kelly


    ORLANDO, Fla. - State Attorney Aramis Ayala on Friday discussed a new death penalty review panel that she created after the Florida Supreme Court denied her petition against Gov. Rick Scott’s reassigning of death penalty cases.

    Ayala held a news conference Friday morning outside the Orange County Courthouse to explain the new panel, which will evaluate each first-degree murder case in her district.

    Ayala said the board comprises seven assistant state attorneys -- six are permanent appointees, some of whom have previously sought the death penalty. 

    The assistant state attorneys consist of Deborah Barra, Kelly Hicks, Candra Moore, Gabrielle Sanders, Chris Smith, Ken Nunnelley and the seventh assistant state attorney will prosecute the case that's under review.

    "The buck will stop with me, but I don't have any intention of usurping that authority that I've given to them," Ayala said.

    Watch the full news conference below:

    "I'm prepared to give that power to them to make the determination," Ayala said. "After the board has made its determination, (it will) present that to me and the attorney assigned (to the case) will then file the notice to seek death if it is appropriate."

    Ayala said that the panel must be unanimous in its decision if it recommends seeking the death penalty.

    The court on Thursday ruled in a 5-2 decision that Scott was within his right to reassign the prosecution of 29 death penalty eligible cases to State Attorney Brad King.

    Ayala said future murder cases should stay in her office.

    Read: 9 facts about Aramis Ayala's, Rick Scott's battle over death penalty

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    Read: Florida Supreme Court rules against Ayala on Scott's reassigning of death penalty cases

    "Ayala’s blanket refusal to seek the death penalty in any eligible case ... does not reflect an exercise of prosecutorial discretion," the court said in an opinion issued Thursday. "It embodies, at best, a misunderstanding of Florida law."

    The dispute began in March when Channel 9 broke that Ayala wouldn't seek the death penalty against Markeith Loyd -- who's accused of fatally shooting his pregnant ex-girlfriend and an Orlando police lieutenant -- or in any other case during her tenure.

    "With implementation of this panel, it is my expectation that going forward, all first-degree murder cases that occur in my jurisdiction will remain in my office and be evaluated and prosecuted accordingly," Ayala said Thursday in a written statement.

    Read: Emails show collaboration between Ayala, anti-death penalty groups

    © 2018 Cox Media Group.
    © 2018 Cox Media Group.

    Read: Ayala calls budget cuts to office ‘political posturing'

    John Tupps, the communications director for Gov. Scott's office, released a new statement following Ayala's news conference.

    “We will continue to review the details that come out of the State Attorney’s office, but the governor must be convinced that the death penalty will be sought as outlined in Florida law, when appropriate. The governor will always stand with crime victims and their families.”

    It's unknown if Scott plans to continue to reassign cases that occur in Ayala's jurisdiction, but he said that he won't give the reassigned cases back to her. Ayala said she agrees with the decision for the sake of the victims' families.

    Photos: Orange County inmates on death row

    © 2018 Cox Media Group.

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