Ayala responds to Scott's accusations in death penalty legal battle

Governor changed his view on meddling in cases, Ayala says

State Attorney Aramis Ayala filed a legal document Monday morning in response to accusations brought forth by Gov. Rick Scott in their ongoing lawsuit over the prosecutor's death penalty stance.

The court papers were filed Monday with the Florida Supreme Court.

Ayala is fighting Scott's series of executive orders to transfer almost two dozen cases from her office after she said her office wouldn't pursue the death penalty against accused double murderer Markeith Loyd or any other case that her office tried.

Monday's court filings said Scott told citizens who had written to him to complain about four recent cases that he couldn't intervene because the state attorney is an elected official.

The court papers suggest that Scott has either been less than honest with citizens or his views have changed in Ayala's case.

"Either Scott was being less than honest with these citizens or his view has suddenly changed. In his opposition, Scott now claims that he can reassign state attorneys against their will whenever he wants, and for whatever reason he wants, as long as doing so is not 'without any reason whatsoever,'" the document reads. 

The argument also accuses Scott of abusing his power, suggesting that cases should be reassigned only if a state attorney is charged with “malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties, or commission of a felony,” none of which apply to Ayala.

"Importantly, nowhere in his opposition does Scott argue that Ayala has somehow failed to do her job—and wisely so, because that charge would be unfounded. Ayala did not refuse to prosecute capital cases or pledge to seek lenient sentences for convicted killers. She was—and is—zealously prosecuting crimes in her judicial circuit," the filing reads.

In contrast to previous cases that Scott has shifted to other prosecutors, Ayala said she did not give her consent to have Scott "shrink" her authority.

"Ayala’s argument is that the governor may not remove cases from a state attorney who is ready, willing, and able, and who opposes transfer on account of her constitutional authority," the filing reads.

The document also addresses claims from an April 26 joint filing between Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi that Ayala asked for the state to reassign a case involving Loyd to neighboring State Attorney Brad King.

Ayala argues that she made that request only because she was required to do so under Scott's executive order.

"The answer is that the text of the Scott’s order says that King is assigned Ayala’s duties 'as they relate to the investigation, prosecution, and all matters related to Markeith Loyd,' so she has simply ceded all of Loyd’s remaining cases to King pending a ruling by this court," the document reads.

Scott's legal supporters have suggested that Ayala acted based on personal feelings rather than evidence when she announced her death penalty stance. Ayala said the biggest factor in her decision was the concern for families of murder victims.

The families of Loyd's alleged victims, 24-year-old Sade Dixon and Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton, filed an amicus brief on Wednesday in support of Scott, asking that they have the opportunity to provide input and insight.

"For that reason alone, survivors must have meaningful, substantive, unbiased input into any state attorney’s sentencing decision, as reflected by various victims’ rights laws. Only 10 percent of family member survivors oppose the death penalty for their loved one’s murderer," the brief reads.

King is seeking the death penalty against Loyd. It is unclear when his trial will begin because he has waived his right to a speedy trial.

Click here to read Ayala's 31-page response filed Monday.

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