Family furious over State Attorney Ayala's death penalty decision

Emerita Mapp, 33, charged with first-degree murder

ORLANDO, Fla. – Emerita Mapp, 33, is charged with first-degree murder and this week she learned she is facing the death penalty if convicted.

Her sister, April Bridges, spoke to News 6, saying the death penalty should not be on the table.

"I don't think it rises to the level of being a death penalty case," Bridges told News 6 investigator Louis Bolden.

"I understand that a murder was committed,” she said. "But I feel like the state attorney is doing this to cover herself."

Months after taking office, Orange Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced her office would not seek the death penalty. She changed course after Gov. Rick Scott stripped dozens of cases from her office and Ayala lost a public court battle against him.

Ayala formed a death penalty review panel to review all first-degree murder cases since she took office. The panel voted unanimously to seek death for Mapp, if she is convicted.

“We want to know why? Bridges said. “Why do this?"

Mapp is accused of stabbing 20-year-old Zachery Ganoe to death and trying to kill another man after a drug-filled night of partying inside a motel room in Osceola County, according to the Sheriff's Office.

It is one of about 20 cases the death penalty review panel has reviewed in two months.

Bridges says she feels the office just wants to prove it will seek death.

"Out of all these cases that were put before them, this panel chose my sister,” Bridges said.

In a notice to seek the death penalty filed by Assistant State Attorney Chris Smith, Smith wrote “sufficient aggravating circumstances” exist to justify death.

Smith listed seven aggravators, including Mapp's previous felony conviction.

The felony was “especially heinous atrocious or cruel,” according to the notice.

"Why are you doing this (in) the state of Florida?” Bridges asked. “ Why? Because someone was not doing their job, so my sister should be the example. It's not fair.” She said.

Bridges said her sister was offered a plea deal this week of life in prison. She said Mapp did not take it.

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