ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — State lawmakers, the community and law enforcement officials are weighing in on a decision announced Thursday by Orange-Osceola County State Attorney Aramis Ayala that her office would not seek the death penalty against Markeith Loyd or in any other cases that were once considered for the death penalty.
Loyd is accused of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon, in December and Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton in January.
Many lawmakers and members of law enforcement agencies have disagreed with Ayala's decision.
Gov. Rick Scott reaction:
Florida Gov. Rick Scott released a statement on Thursday that called for Ayala to recuse herself from the case. When she refused, Scott removed her from the Loyd case and appointed State Attorney Brad King.
“Earlier today, I called on State Attorney Ayala to immediately recuse herself from this case," Scott said.
"She informed me this afternoon that she refuses to do that. She has made it clear that she will not fight for justice, and that is why I am using my executive authority to immediately reassign the case to State Attorney Brad King.
“Let’s remember, Markeith Loyd is accused of executing a brave law enforcement hero and murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon. Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy Norman Lewis was also killed while actively searching for Markeith Loyd following these heinous murders. I am outraged and sickened by this loss of life, and many families’ lives have been forever changed because of these senseless murders. These families deserve a state attorney who will aggressively prosecute Markeith Loyd to the fullest extent of the law, and justice must be served.”
King is the state attorney that oversees Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties.
King told Channel 9 that he doesn't know all the facts of the Loyd case and that he makes decisions on death penalties by looking at the facts.
Just before 6 p.m., Ayala released at statement regarding Scott's decision: "At approximately 3:20 p.m. today, I spoke to Governor Scott. I offered to have a full conversation with him regarding my decision about death penalty. He declined to explor my reasoning.
"I have since learned he issued an Order removing my office from any cases related to Markeith Loyd.
"Upon receipt of any lawful order, my office will follow that order and fully cooperate to ensure the successful prosecution of Markeith Loyd."
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer reaction:
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said in a statement: "I believe in and support the use of the death penalty. The law in the state of Florida provides for the death penalty for the most heinous crimes. The crimes committed by Markeith Loyd are horrific and the death penalty is the appropriate consequence."
Rep. Bob Cortes reaction:
Rep. Bob Cortes said in a news release that he plans to contact members of the Florida Legislature about drafting legislation to make sure Florida laws are followed.
“Heinous crimes like the ones committed by Mr. Loyd are the reason our law allows for the death penalty," Cortes said. "Because we believe life is precious, justice for taking innocent life must be done. Senate Bill 280, which Gov. Scott recently signed, helps to ensure the integrity of our system by requiring jury decisions for the death penalty be unanimous. It is why the decision whether a person should live or die should be the decision of 12 jurors, not the personal feeling of a state attorney."
Cortes also said he’s looking into whether Ayala’s decision is a possible violation of public integrity.
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings reaction:
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings released a statement Thursday on Ayala's decision: "State Attorney Ayala contacted me late Wednesday afternoon and advised me of her decision to not seek the death penalty in the murder trials involving Markeith Loyd.
"While it is her decision to make, the heinous nature of Loyd's crimes resulted in the murder of Sade Dixon, an unborn child and Lt. Clayton. Also, because of Loyd's actions, we lost Deputy Norm Lewis. I urge her to consider the wishes of the victims' families and try these cases with death as the penalty."
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi reaction:
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a statement: "State Attorney Aramis Ayala’s decision today sends a dangerous message to residents and visitors of the greater Orlando area. Furthermore, it is a blatant neglect of duty and a shameful failure to follow the law as a constitutionally elected officer.”
Color of Change PAC reaction:
Color of Change PAC, the nation's largest online racial justice organization, said in part: "State Attorney Aramis Ayala’s decision sets a powerful example of reform that others must heed.
"Every day more and more Americans of all races are waking up to realize the warped incentives in our criminal justice system, and in 2016 many went to the polls to vote out prosecutors working from a failed and inhumane playbook.
"Prosecutors nationwide should now take notice of State Attorney Ayala's action. The death penalty has always been applied disproportionately to black people, from the era of slavery to the present day, where it is overlaid on an unequal system of mass incarceration. And today, this discriminatory system took a big hit."
Florida Police Chiefs Association reaction:
The Florida Police Chiefs Association said in a statement that it supports Scott's and Bondi's statements and have also asked Ayala to recuse herself.
"The idea that this criminal deserves anything less than the death penalty is an insult to Florida law enforcement. He deliberately took Clayton's life, and deprived her family, her colleagues and her community of a fine, outstanding police officer. Taking the death penalty off the table is an extraordinary lack of respect for law enforcement officers," said Coconut Creek Police Chief Butch Arenal, president of the Florida Police Chiefs Association."
Osceola County Sheriff reaction:
Osceola County Sheriff Russ Gibson said in a statement: “I am disheartened by the decision of State Attorney Aramis Ayala in not pursuing the death penalty in the heinous murder of Lt. Debra Clayton, Sade Dixon and Sade Dixon’s unborn baby.
"I am also in disbelief that the state attorney would announce that she would never seek the death penalty in any situation. The Florida Legislature and the citizens of Florida have continuously supported the use of the death penalty as a sanction for those criminals who have committed the most appalling of crimes.
"State Attorney Ayala’s announcement today takes away the ability to decide whether someone convicted of first-degree murder should receive life or death from the citizens who sit as jurors in the Ninth Judicial Circuit. She has imposed her personal beliefs and disregarded the position of the citizens in her community. My deputies now have to go to work knowing that the state attorney will not use all of the laws available to her to seek justice on their behalf or on behalf of any of the citizens of Osceola and Orange counties.”
Former State Attorney Jeff Ashton:
"I can tell you there is no place in the state of Florida where the prosecutor would not seek the death penalty against Markeith Loyd," former State Attorney Jeff Ashton told Channel 9's Janine Reyes.
Ashton lost re-election last November to Ayala.
He told Eyewitness News death is not for Ayala to decide, and that it should be up to jurors in cases where there are aggravating factors for allowing for death.
"The statute requires an individualized assessment of each case. (It) requires the decision to be based on aggravating and mitigating circumstances, so I'm not even sure she can do this," Ashton said.
This is a developing story. Check back on wftv.com and Eyewitness News for updates.
Watch news conference on state attorney's office death penalty decision:
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