Top prosecutors support Gov. Scott in death penalty legal battle, filing shows

Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association calls Ayala 'defiant'


A group of Florida's top prosecutors have voiced their support for Gov. Rick Scott in his ongoing legal battle with Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala over her death penalty stance.

The Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association filed an amicus brief Wednesday afternoon, rallying behind the governor. 

The 53-page court filing outlines three main reasons the group has decided to back Scott: Florida statute allows the governor to assign cases to state attorneys; Ayala does not have the authority to disregard Florida laws by refusing to seek the death penalty and Ayala actions are akin to legislative policy making, which is a violation of the separation of powers.

"No State Attorney in Florida’s history has ever so defiantly ignored the legislature and refused to consider the law. Governor Scott responded to this unique situation by first asking Ms. Ayala to recuse herself from the affected cases. After her refusal, Governor Scott then reassigned the cases in accordance with Florida law," the filing reads.

The group also accuses Ayala of failing to maintain impartiality in her death penalty decision.

"Ms. Ayala contends that she dismissed her personal feelings toward the death penalty and instead attempts to rely on the 'evidence' to support her decision," the group wrote. "In reality, the evidence shows that Ms. Ayala’s decision to abandon the death penalty is purely subjective."

The filing includes a word-for-word transcription of the March 16 news conference where Ayala announced that she would not be seeking capital punishment against accused double murderer Markeith Loyd or any other case her office prosecutes.

“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.

Scott stripped the Loyd case from Ayala that same day and reassigned it to neighboring State Attorney Brad King. Nearly two dozen other first-degree murder cases have also been reassigned, prompting Ayala to sue Scott so her office could regain jurisdiction. 

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