Florida Supreme Court to hear Markeith Loyd death penalty appeal

Loyd sentenced to death for murder of Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday in the case of convicted cop killer Markeith Loyd.

Loyd was sentenced to death in March 2022 for the murder of Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton, who was shot to death in 2017.

Judge Leticia Marques made her final decision months after a jury recommended the death penalty for Loyd, who was found guilty on five charges, including first-degree murder. Loyd fatally shot Clayton outside a Walmart in 2017 while he was on the run for killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon, in December 2016.

Loyd’s lawyers appealed the decision shortly after his sentencing, claiming there were mistakes by the court and arguing he was not competent to be sentenced. Now, they are calling for a new trial and a new penalty phase hearing.

“Our argument is that the Florida Legislature never clearly created a situation where there’s any burden on the defense in penalty phase closing,” said Nancy Ryan, Loyd’s assistant public defender.

State prosecutor Doris Meacham went ahead and asked the justices to affirm Loyd’s sentences.

“The facts support the jury’s rejection of this mitigator that the defendant knew what he was doing that day. That after killing his girlfriend and her unborn child he hid in the woods. That he went to the Walmart, and when he saw the police officer and she told him to stop, he knew why,” Meacham said.

The justices made no decision on Tuesday.

Loyd’s mental health was called into question during his penalty phase after a doctor diagnosed him with several mental illnesses.

The court ruled he was competent to be sentenced.

“All these families have suffered. Debra Clayton’s family has suffered. Sade Dixon’s family has suffered. ... All because of the evil actions of Markeith Loyd,” Orange County Sheriff John Mina said outside the courthouse after the sentencing. “... And now it’s time for Markeith Loyd to suffer.”

Loyd was already serving a life sentence for the murder of Dixon when he was found guilty of murdering Clayton.

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About the Author:

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