TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Rick Scott was asked on Tuesday about removing State Attorney Aramis Ayala from office over her refusal to seek the death penalty in any case.
"I am reviewing my options," Scott said when asked about his decision to possibly remove Ayala at an event in Edgewater honoring the company Boston Whaler.
Scott's comments come after State Rep. Bob Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs, was among five officials who held a news conference asking Gov. Rick Scott to remove Ayala from her position as Orange-Osceola state attorney.
“I applaud Gov. Scott’s executive orders that reassign all 21 of State Attorney Aramis Ayala’s first-degree murder cases to State Attorney Brad King. I appreciate the governor’s decisive action to pursue justice for the victims of the unspeakable crimes represented by these cases," Cortes said. "In light of State Attorney Ayala’s insistence that she will not consider capital punishment in any case, no matter how horrific, I continue to believe justice would best be served by her suspension from office, and I urge Gov. Scott to seek her removal.”
Cortes was joined at the news conference by state Reps. Mike Miller, Rene Plasencia, Scott Plakon and Jennifer Sullivan.
Ayala made headlines last month when she said she would not seek the death penalty against Markeith Loyd, who is accused of murder in the shooting deaths of his pregnant ex-girlfriend and Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton. At the same time, Ayala said she would not seek the death penalty, in any case, citing time, resources and cost to taxpayers.
Scott was asked about State Attorney Brad King's decision to seek the death penalty against Markeith Loyd.
Scott said that he has not seen that King's motion, but was asked about his thoughts on the case.
"I think that he is doing the right thing from the standpoint of looking at the facts and he'll make the right decision," Scott said."My experience with Brad King has been very positive and I know he will take this very seriously and he'll do it like I'm doing it. He will think about the victims and think about their families."
“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 last month
However, Ayala's legal counsel Roy Austin told News 6 on Tuesday they plan to fight her reassignment from not only the Loyd case but the 21 other cases.
"The action from the governor is unprecedented. Certainly, there is no one who has worked on the forced removal of a prosecutor from exercising their discretion," Austin said. "There's no law. There's nothing in the constitution of Florida law that allows him to remove an elected state attorney from exercising the discretion that is given elected state attorney's by law."
Austin also told News 6 that prosecutors from other counties should also be concerned about the governor's actions.
"I think if you are a prosecutor in the state of Florida you should be very concerned about the governor's actions. Because there's nothing, based on his analysis of this, there's nothing to stop him from interfering in any case that he wants to interfere. There's no limit to it, he continued.