ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala filed a federal lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott Tuesday claiming he violated the Constitution by removing her from 23 death penalty cases.
The issue reached a head on March 16, when Ayala announced she would not seek the death penalty against Markeith Loyd, who is accused of killing his pregnant ex-girlfiriend, Sade Dixon, and Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton.
As part of the announcement, Ayala said she would not pursue the death penalty in any case prosecuted by her office.
Scott removed her from the Loyd case via executive order and later replaced her in nearly two dozen other death penalty cases.
In her lawsuit Tuesday, Ayala claimed Scott “usurped” her authority as an elected official by removing her from the cases “simply because he disagreed with her reasoned prosecutorial determination not to seek the death penalty under current circumstances.”
The law allows her to seek the death penalty in certain circumstances, but does not require her to in any circumstance, Ayala argued in the lawsuit.
Many members of the law enforcement community, members of the public and other elected officials decried Ayala’s decision not to pursue the death penalty in the Loyd case.
Florida Rep. Bob Cortes has called for Scott to remove Ayala from office outright.
Others, though, have stood behind Ayala in her decision to not pursue the death penalty in criminal cases prosecuted by her office.
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