State attorney won't seek death penalty for any cases

Announcement made at news conference in case against Markeith Loyd

By Melodi Smith - Multimedia Journalist

ORLANDO, Fla. - State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced Thursday at a news conference that she will not seek the death penalty in any case under her administration in Orange or Osceola counties.

“I will not be seeking the death penalty in the cases handled in my office,” Ayala said.

Ayala made the announcement as she discussed her decision not to pursue the death penalty in the case against Markeith Loyd, announced late Wednesday. 

Ayala referred a bill passed Tuesday that will require a unanimous jury recommendation before the death penalty can be imposed.

"I have determined doing so is not in the best interest of this community or in the best interest of justice," Ayala said.

Ayala said her decision does not mean that she will not hold accountable those who cause harm to the community.

“By choosing to seek life sentences over death, we can assure that violent offenders will never be released. They will never continue to drain resources from this state with decades of appeals,” Ayala said.

Loyd, 41, is accused of shooting and killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon, 24, on Dec. 13 at her home in Pine Hills. Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton was shot four times outside an Orlando Walmart in January after she received a tip that Loyd was at the store. 

Orlando police Chief John Mina told News 6 investigator Louis Bolden by phone from Dubai, where he is attending a law enforcement symposium, that he is  "extremely upset" about the decision. 

"If there was any a case for the death penalty,  I think this is the case. I'm sure she has seen the video as well. I have seen the video of Markeith Loyd standing over the helpless and defenseless Lt. Debra Clayton," Mina said. "He had the opportunity to run and flee to get away and escape, but he chose to stand there and fire multiple rounds into her helpless and defenseless body." 

Mina described the video, which has not been released to the public, of  Clayton trying to apprehend Loyd. She was struck and fell to the ground. Mina said Loyd fired multiple rounds into Clayton's body execution style as she lay on the ground.

Mina told Bolden that if the case was not about Loyd and was about the death penalty in general,
he would "be disappointed.

"Any time that someone is gunned down in broad daylight-- you are talking about a person who took an oath to protect the community (and) was executed -- I do believe that is an aggravating factor that should warrant a death penalty," Mina said.

Ayala told reporters that she understands that members of the law enforcement community may be upset.

She also said she spoke with Mina and will discuss with him further details about the evidence. 

Mina told Bolden that he will hear her out and listen to her reasoning. 

"But I don't think that anything that she says is going to change my opinion or my mind," Mina said. 

"I saw the video for myself. I've seen all the evidence. I've seen everything that she has in front of her, so  I truly believe that this is a case, if any case that needs to be a death penalty case. Let a jury decide that," Mina said. 

A reporter asked Ayala if she already held her position about the death penalty when she was campaigning last year.

"At the time that I was campaigning, (the) death penalty was in that flux created that brought us to this position," she said.

She said that while she has personal beliefs about the death penalty, she put them aside and analyzed whether the evidence supported her decision.

Ayala said she believes that it does.

Ayala said she contacted Clayton's husband on Wednesday, but she has yet to speak to every victim's family.

News 6 spoke to Clayton's husband Seth Clayton after the announcement.

"I was just in an array of emotions," Seth Clayton said. ""you know, I was mad for one. And, you know, I was upset."

Debra Clayton's sister Ashley Thomas said she was saddened by the news.

"I was very upset about it because I feel like they're making it easy for (Loyd)," Thomas said.

She added that there isn't a day that goes by that she doesn't think about the sister that raised her.

"It's just hard that she's not coming back," Thomas said.

The ninth Judaical district state attorney's decision reflects a similar decision in 2004 by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Cali.), then attorney general in California.

A San Francisco police officer was shot and killed while on patrol. Harris did not seek the death penalty for the suspect receiving mass protests from law enforcement and politicians.

The shooter received life in prison, reported the New York Times.

Loyd plans to represent himself at trial and presented a  "sovereign citizen" argument at a recent court hearing. He is set to appear in court on Monday. 

Stay with News 6 and ClickOrlando.com for more on this developing story.

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