Judge in Markeith Loyd trial will not allow state to question jurors on use of force

The penalty phase for Loyd will start Nov. 29

ORLANDO, Fla. – Attorneys in the Markeith Loyd trial were in court Friday discussing how the use of force in Loyd’s arrest will play into the penalty phase of the convicted killer’s murder trial, which begins Nov. 29.

Judge Leticia Marques decided Friday afternoon in a written order that the state will not be able to question jurors about their thoughts on the use of force and the defense will not be able to mention Loyd’s dropped charges or that he was arrested in Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton’s handcuffs.

Earlier this month, a jury found Loyd guilty on five charges — including first-degree murder — in the shooting death of Clayton in 2017.

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Later, state and defense attorneys argued the logistics of what will be presented to the jury during the penalty phase, where Loyd faces the death penalty.

A day before the final stage of the trial was set, Marques ruled on Nov. 5 that the defense would be permitted to discuss the use of force in Loyd’s arrest, which caused him to lose an eye.

“It has to do with the result of the injury to his eye and basically his suffering as a result. It’s like they partially punished him already, they did this intentionally and it’s our belief they did do this intentionally,” Loyd’s attorney Terry Lenamon said in an interview with News 6 following Friday’s hearing.

Marques had previously omitted the use of force being discussed in court proceedings prior to that ruling. Following her decision, prosecutors filed a motion requesting her recusal from the penalty phase of the case.

“We would have asked, I can tell you hand to God, what they think of use of force,” prosecutor Ryan Williams said in an earlier hearing.

Now, the state filed eight motions, including one asking the judge to allow prosecutors to further question the 12 jurors and four alternates about their thoughts on use of force.

“There is not, and has never been, any dispute that law enforcement used force when Loyd was taken into custody — the evidence of that event may be disturbing to some and that is where the prejudice to the State lies; in reliance on this Court’s pretrial ruling, the State did not fully question the jurors about their feelings, opinions and biases they may regarding such evidence because there was no need to do so,” the state’s motion reads.

Loyd’s defense, however, objected to this.

“They had plenty of opportunity to question the jurors about that and they did,” Lenamon told News 6. “This is just a way for them to back door and strike the jurors in a way that has never really been done before.”

Lenamon and his defense team pointed to an interaction the state had during jury selection with one African American juror, who was seated in the trial.

“(That juror) said that he believes use of force is appropriate given the circumstances but there are sometimes when minorities are treated differently and the use of force is not appropriate,” Lenamon said. “And the state allowed that juror to stay on the jury. So, for them to come now and say something differently just doesn’t make any sense other than they want to try to eliminate jurors that have the possibility of finding life.”

The judge ultimately denied this motion from the prosecutors in a decision on Friday afternoon.

The state also filed a motion in regards to limiting specific questions the defense can ask to the officers questioned in the use of force investigation.

The motion reads:

“The State seeks to prohibit questioning of Jonathan Cute, specifically related to the following three issues: 1) Officer Cute, or another member of law enforcement, used Lt. Clayton’s handcuffs to secure Markeith Loyd on January 17, 2017; 2) Mr. Loyd was initially arrested for the crime of Resisting Arrest Without Violence but not charged; and 3) Officer Cute, while under criminal investigation, invoked his 5th Amendment right to remain silent during the defense’s deposition in 2019.”

The state said they do not want the jury to know that Loyd’s charge of resisting arrest without violence was dropped and doesn’t think it’s relevant for them to hear Loyd was arrested with Lt. Clayton’s handcuffs.

“It really shows how angry the department was and it was a vendetta,” Lenamon said, defending the proposal to submit the handcuffs issue as evidence.

The judge had previously kept those details out of the trial and granted the prosecution’s request.

Friday’s discussions come after a motion to remove Marques from the trial was denied Wednesday.

About the Authors:

Samantha started at WKMG-TV in September 2020. Before joining the News 6 team, Samantha was a political reporter for The Villages Daily Sun and has had freelance work featured in the Evansville Courier-Press and The Community Paper. When not writing, she enjoys travelling and performing improv comedy.