• Defendant in Ayala's first death-penalty case takes plea deal, gets life in prison

    By: WFTV Web Staff

    Updated:

    OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - There will be no death penalty in what was supposed to be the first death penalty case in State Attorney Aramis Ayala's office.

     

    Emerita Mapp accepted a plea deal on Friday for life in prison for the murder Zackery Ganoe.

     

    She was also charged in the attempted murder of Andrew Bickford.

     

    The case has been at the forefront of a battle between state Ayala and Gov. Rick Scott over the death penalty, ever since Ayala's office missed the filing deadline to pursue the death penalty against Mapp.

     

    Scott stripped Ayala of several cases after she announced she wouldn’t pursue the death penalty in any case.

     

     

    After losing a legal battle, she set up a death penalty panel, which decided Mapp would be the first death penalty case from her office.

     

    The judge was set to decide if prosecutors could pursue death in a hearing Monday despite the missed deadline.

     

    Instead, Mapp took the plea deal for life in prison and there was no decision on whether she would have even faced the death penalty.

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    "You understand by entering this plea, that issue is never going to be resolved?" the judge said.

     

    Ayala blamed the governor for the missed deadline.

     

    The governor sent her a scathing letter Monday demanding answers.

     

    A spokesperson for Ayala said the decision on a plea is made by the prosecutor, and doesn't have to be approved by the death penalty panel or Ayala.

     

    Emerita Eileen Mapp (Photo: Osceola County Sheriff's Office)
    © 2018 Cox Media Group.

    Channel 9’s Jeff Deal asked the defense why Mapp took the deal, when death could have been off the table anyway.

     

    Then attorney did not believe there would have been a chance for a better sentence or deal.

     

    The state attorney's office says it made the offer before the 45-day death penalty filing deadline was up, and said Mapp’s defense attorney failed to inform Mapp of the plea offer in a timely manner, and they felt even if they got death, that delay by defense could have created issues at appeal.

     

    WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said the prosecutor's choice was a logical one.

     

    "The state knows if they get a plea of life in prison instead of the death sentence, they're going to avoid costly appeals and they're going to avoid any resentencing," he said.

     

    WATCH: Emerita Mapp's hearing

     

     

     

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