Court gives jury orders as penalty phase of Markeith Loyd trial delayed

Decision comes after judge allowed defense to discuss use of force by law enforcement during Loyd’s 2017 arrest

Jurors released, expected to return later this month for Loyd's sentencing

ORLANDO, Fla. – The jury returned to court Saturday where they were given rules to follow while they are awaiting the penalty phase of Markeith Loyd’s trial to pick back up later this month.

A judge ruled Friday to delay the penalty phase of Markeith Loyd’s trial following his conviction Wednesday for the murder of Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton.

The penalty phase was originally scheduled to begin Saturday morning, with both sides presenting evidence ahead of the jury recommending whether or not Loyd should face the death penalty. The penalty phase is now pushed back until Nov. 29.

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The decision comes after Judge Leticia Marques decided to allow the defense to discuss the use of force by law enforcement during Loyd’s arrest, which caused the killer to lose one of his eyes.

“Remember how serious this matter is when you get tempted to talk about it because it is going to weigh on your minds and you need to be realistic about that. You just can’t talk about it. It doesn’t get anymore serious than this folks, so have a good break. I’ll see you all back here,” Marques said Saturday.

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News 6 legal analyst Steven Kramer said the discussion of use of force by law enforcement is “the tell right there.”

“The defense wouldn’t introduce a use of force argument if they didn’t believe it might save the life of Markeith Loyd,” Kramer said.

Prosecutors objected to the inclusion of the use of force, something the judge had omitted from the court proceedings prior to this ruling. This includes video from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office’s helicopter which shows the arrest.

“The use of force that may have happened after the murder didn’t play a role in the crime itself. Whatever happened after Lt. Clayton was killed has no bearing on the murder and the actions on Markeith Loyd,” Kramer added.

Both an Orlando police internal investigation and an investigation from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement cleared the officers involved in Loyd’s arrest from any wrongdoing.

“We do not believe we would get a fair shot if this is thrown on us. This is starting tomorrow morning,” Prosecutor Ryan Williams said.

The judge asked the prosecution whether they would like to push back the start of the penalty phase, a move that also includes releasing the jurors from sequestration — allowing them to go home but under very strict orders from the court.

The state said it would need more than a week, in part because prosecutors did not question the jurors on their thoughts about use of force by police.

“We would have asked I can tell you — hand to god — what they think of use of force and that matters and we didn’t have opportunity to do that because of prior ruling,” Williams said.

The judge granted the request for a delay.

“I’ll bring in the jurors tomorrow morning, I am going to inform jurors there have been some developments. They can’t go to penalty phase right now. Send them from sequestration on 5 million things on what they can or can’t do,” Marques said.

Loyd, 46, was just found guilty on five charges: First-degree murder on a law enforcement officer, attempted murder on a law enforcement officer, aggravated assault with a firearm, carjacking with a firearm and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Loyd shot and killed Clayton while he was on the run after killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon in December 2016. Loyd is already serving life in prison without parole for the murder of Dixon.

He was convicted of that murder in 2019. Loyd also faced the death penalty in that case and it took the jury about an hour to recommend a life sentence.

“There are no winners in this situation right now,” Kramer said. “There is only tragedy and a desire for closure.”

About the Author:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.