ORLANDO, Fla. - The father of a murder victim held a news conference Friday outside the Orange County Courthouse announcing his lack of faith in State Attorney Aramis Ayala.
Ayala made headlines Thursday by announcing that she would not pursue the death penalty in any case, including that of Markeith Loyd, who is accused of shooting and killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton.
Rafael Zaldivar, the father of Alex Zaldivar, who was 19 when he was murdered by Bessman Okafor, held a news conference at 10:30 a.m. at the courthouse, where he called the justice system "a complete joke."
"I have to fight everybody in this damn town, and I'm sick of it. If it's not Orange County, it's the jail, it's the courts, it's the Supreme Court and now I have to deal with the prosecutor's office; the people in there," Zaldivar said. "It is a joke."
Zaldivar said that after Ayala's announcement on Thursday, he has no confidence in her.
"That’s why I'm asking for a special prosecutor to handle my son's case," Zaldivar said. "I don’t want her touching my son's case."
Zaldivar said he believes Ayala has taken up a political agenda and has failed to honor the oath she took upon taking office.
"The state of Florida has a death penalty. If you don't like it, move to Michigan," Zaldivar said. "She took an oath, and she needs to follow it."
Okafor was sentenced to death in 2015 in the execution-style shooting death of Alex Zaldivar, who was scheduled to testify against Okafor in a separate home invasion case.
Zaldivar said he believes all of the aggravators necessary to seek the death penalty in Loyd's case are present, and that he wants Loyd "6 feet under." He said he hopes Gov. Rick Scott and others will get the message he's sending.
"What's going to happen next week? What kind of message is she sending to a lot of these thugs and parasites? Shoot five or 10 cops and guess what -- at the end you're going to get life. And life means running around a compound," Zaldivar said.
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union held a rally at 11 a.m. to support Ayala and her decision to no longer pursue the death penalty.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott removed Ayala from the Loyd case after asking her to recuse herself. Ayala refused to recuse herself, so Scott assigned the Loyd case to Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brad King via executive order.
Ayala cited time, resources and cost to taxpayers in her decision to not pursue the death penalty in any case.
“By choosing to seek life sentences over death, we can assure that violent offenders will never be released. They will never continue to drain resources from this state with decades of appeals,” Ayala said.
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Loyd is accused of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend, 24-year-old Sade Dixon, in Pine Hills on Dec. 13 and Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton at an Orlando Walmart on Jan. 9. He was arrested on Jan. 17, bringing a nine-day manhunt to an end.
"I am outraged and sickened by this loss of life and many families’ lives have been forever changed because of these senseless murders," Scott said. "These families deserve a state attorney who will aggressively prosecute Markeith Loyd to the fullest extent of the law and justice must be served.”
In the executive order, Scott wrote, "The ends of justice will best be served and there is good and sufficient reason to order the assignment of another state attorney to discharge duties of State Attorney Aramis Ayala.”
Ayala's announcement prompted a flurry of responses from law enforcement leaders.
“To put it bluntly, law enforcement officers throughout Florida are outraged over the decision that was made (by Ayala) in this case. I’ve also heard from many citizens, who share the same feelings,” Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said Thursday afternoon.
Demings supported Scott's executive order, saying the victims' families do, too.
"Her wish is that Markeith Loyd dies quickly, but if he must live, that he live and die in prison and never walk free again," said Demings, quoting Dixon's mother, Stephanie Dixon-Daniels.
She also said not pursuing the death penalty would be a "slap in the face" to law enforcement officers.
Clayton's husband, Seth Clayton, said he believes that the death penalty is the only way justice can be served in this case, according to Orlando police.
“My closure will be when Markeith Loyd is 6 feet under,” Seth Clayton was quoted as saying.
Orlando Police Chief John Mina agreed.
"I have seen the video of Markeith Loyd executing Lt. Debra Clayton while she lay defenseless on the ground. She was given no chance to live. A cop killer -- who also killed his pregnant girlfriend -- should not be given that chance," Mina said in a statement posted to Twitter. "The heinous crimes that he committed in our community are the very reason we have the death penalty as an option under the law."
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