Prosecutors file motion to remove judge in Markeith Loyd trial

Motion calls for recusal after judge ruled defense can discuss use of force

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Prosecutors in Markeith Loyd’s trial filed a motion Wednesday to remove the judge presiding over the case.

The motion calls for the recusal of Judge Leticia Marques after she decided to allow the defense to discuss the use of force by law enforcement during Loyd’s arrest during the penalty phase of the trial, reversing a previous decision that ruled against the discussion.

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Loyd was found guilty on Nov. 3 of five charges, including first-degree murder for the shooting death of Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton in 2017 while he was on the run after killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon in December 2016.

After Loyd was found guilty, Marques ruled on Nov. 5, one day before the penalty phase was set to begin, that the defense would be allowed to discuss use of force, which caused him to lose one of his eyes.

Prosecutors objected to the inclusion of the use of force, something the judge had omitted from the court proceedings prior to this ruling. When the state was asked by the judge if they would like to push back the start of the penalty phase with the new ruling, prosecutors said it would need more than a week to prepare, in part because prosecutors did not question the jurors on their thoughts about use of force by police.

“It is not the Court’s ruling, however, but rather the manner in which it was reached that concerns the State in this instance. While the Court has not specifically instructed Defendant’s counsel how or what to argue, it has supplied the argument for them for a second time in the same context,” the motion reads. “These facts give the State a reasonable fear it cannot obtain a fair hearing on the penalty aspect of this case.”

According to the court document, prosecutors cited the earliest instance of the judge granting a motion to not allow use of force discussions during the guilt phase of the trial, which happened on April 26, 2021.

“There is nothing I have heard today that indicates to me that the identity or any description of anyone who inflicted the injuries on Mr. Loyd is relevant to the penalty phase of these proceedings,” the motion reads quoting Marques during the hearing.

Prosecutors also documented in the motion that Marques filed an order on Oct. 6, two days before jury selection began, on the discussion of use of force which reads, “The Defense may address the Defendant’s injury through the Defense’s expert witness, but only if the testimony of the expert establishes the relevance of the injury to his diagnosis of brain damage. The Defense MAY NOT directly or indirectly establish, or attempt to establish, the cause of the injury.”

This comes after Marques outlined the evidence that can be presented to the jury in the penalty phase, allowing the defense to show a two-minute helicopter video of his violent arrest.

The ruling allows a short version from law enforcement’s helicopter video of Loyd’s arrest to be shown during the penalty phase of the trial. The two-minute video provided by the defense of the arrest, “shows the Defendant surrendering and being placed into custody, including the head kicks,” according to the court document.

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.

About the Author:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.