Panel must be unanimous in death penalty recommendations, Ayala says

Ayala won't ask for 29 death penalty cases back

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

ORLANDO, Fla. - State Attorney Aramis Ayala addressed the public Friday a day after the Florida Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Rick Scott has the authority to remove first-degree murder cases against her will.

Justices said Thursday that Scott has the authority to take cases away from Ayala because of her decision not to seek the death penalty in any cases. Read more about that decision here.

Hours after the decision Thursday, Ayala released a statement explaining how she will handle potential capital punishment cases moving forward using a death penalty panel.

Six of the seven-member panel stood behind the ninth judicial district state attorney while she addresses members of the media. Ayala further explained how that panel will function during the news conference.

The attorneys selected for the panel are assistant state attorneys in Ayala’s office: Debra Barra, Kelly Hicks, Candra Moore, Gabriela Sanders, Chris Smith and Ken Nunnelly.

“None of them have even expressed and have no opposition to the death penalty,” Ayala said of the group.

The panel, starting immediately, will review all first-degree murder cases and make a recommendation to Ayala. If capital punishment is recommended, similar to a jury, it must be a unanimous decision, the state attorney said.

Ayala said she has "no intention of usurping the authority," of the panel.

Ayala said she has no plans to ask King to return the 29 potential death penalty cases to her office.

"Legally I can request those," she said. "But I did not think it was in the best interest of the victims' families."

Scott said he would like Ayala to publicly say the death penalty is now an option in capital murder cases. If she recanted her blanket policy on capital punishment Scott said only then would he return the cases taken from Ayala's office.

See how other state officials reacted to the Florida Supreme Court decision.

When asked if Ayala plans on responding to the governor's criticism of her new plan, she said "I've responded to the Supreme Court."

"At this point my focus is on the community that I love," she said, closing out the news conference.

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