Governor's office accuses State Attorney Ayala of negligence in death penalty case

Victims of crimes 'deserve better,' letter says


ORLANDO, Fla. – Gov. Rick Scott's office issued a letter to Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala on Monday in which he accuses her of negligence in her office's handling of a death penalty case.

The letter comes after Ayala announced on Oct. 31 that she would pursue the death penalty against accused murderer Emerita Mapp, marking the first time the office would seek capital punishment since Ayala took office in January.

Weeks later, it was announced that the 45-day deadline to file a notice to seek in that case had passed.

"At best, this suggests negligence -- and at worst, willful disregard -- in the faithful performance of duties of your constitutional office," Scott's general counsel, Daniel Norby, wrote in the letter. "In any event, it is a clear disservice to the hardworking men and women of the law enforcement agencies in your circuit and to the crime victims and their families impacted by the offenses you are charged to prosecute. They deserve better." 

Ayala formed a death penalty review panel within her office after losing her legal battle to Scott. The Florida Supreme Court ruled on Aug. 31 that the governor had the authority to strip dozens of cases from her against her will because she refused to seek the death penalty against accused double murderer Markeith Loyd or any other case her office oversees.

Scott's office is now demanding that Ayala provide information about that seven-member death penalty review panel, which must reach a unanimous recommendation before capital punishment is sought.

Ayala's office has until Dec. 11 to provide Scott with the following information: How Ayala came to the decision to develop a death penalty review panel and how she chose its members; the procedures used by members of the panel; the dates the panel has met since Sept. 1, how many cases it has reviewed in those meeting and which cases the panel recommends for capital punishment; an explanation as to why she rejected State Attorney Brad King's offer to help develop a procedure for reviewing first-degree murder cases; written confirmation that her office does intend to pursue the death penalty in cases it oversees; and public records pertaining to the death penalty review panel and the public relations firm hired to represent Ayala during her legal battle with Scott, including unredacted billing records.

"As you know, Governor Scott stands with the victims of crime and is committed to doing everything within his power to ensure they receive the justice they deserve," Norby writes. "In light of your office's delinquent filing -- and your ongoing attempts to blame others for your office's failures -- Floridians deserve to better understand what happened, what you intend to do to remedy the situation and what steps you intend to take to ensure that a similar failure will never occur again."

A spokeswoman from Ayala's office said Monday evening that she was reviewing the letter.

Click here to read the letter in its entirety.

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