Florida Death Penalty Decision Leads to Swift Action

Florida’s state prosecutor Aramis Ayala’s explanation of her decision not to seek the death penalty in the state’s case against accused murderer Markeith Loyd – or anyone else – in Orange and Osceola counties was only hours old when Florida Rick Scott took action on March 16, 2017.

Reaction from law enforcement officials, both those directly involved in the Markeith Loyd case in Orlando, Florida and others throughout the state, including the Fraternal Order of Police, was quick and critical of Ayala’s decision.

Amid the outcry from law enforcement, the general public and some elected officials in Florida’s legislature, Florida Governor Rick Scott first contacted Ayala, requesting that she recuse herself from prosecuting the Loyd case. When Ayala indicated she would not do so, Scott used his executive authority to remove Ayala from the Loyd case, replacing her with state attorney Brad King of Florida’s 5th Judicial District.

In their joint prepared statement provided at a press conference on Thursday, Florida Representatives Robert Cortes, Mike Miller, Scott Plakon and Rene Plasencia not only expressed their outrage at the newly-elected Ayala’s announcement that she would not be considering the death penalty against any defendants in her tenure as district attorney for the 9th Circuit Court, but that they were also seeking possible sanctions against her, including removal from office for what they termed to be her failure to uphold the laws of the state of Florida in regard to the death penalty.

Not everyone was critical of Ayala’s decision and explanation of why she would not seek the death penalty for anyone; several civil rights organizations such as Amnesty International praised the Florida prosecutor for her stand, a stand she said she may reconsider in the future.

In an email to Gov. Scott, Ayala explained that she would cooperate with the governor’s executive order, stating, “My office will follow that order and fully cooperate to ensure the successful prosecution of Markeith Loyd.”

Markeith Loyd, 41, of Orlando, Florida, whose double murder charges are at the center of this issue, last appeared in court on March 1, 2017 for his arraignment hearing for the many criminal charges he faces, from two first-degree murder charges in the death of his former girlfriend, Sade Dixon and Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton, to the attempted murder charge of Sade Dixon’s brother. The next scheduled court date for Loyd is March 20, 2017, for a status hearing on his pretrial, with jury selection to begin on May 1, 2017, for the anticipated June 19, 2017, trial.

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