A who’s who of legal experts blasted Gov. Rick Scott for removing 9th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Aramis Ayala from the case of accused cop-killer Markeith Loyd after Ayala announced she would not seek the death penalty in the case, or any others, during her tenure.
More than 100 former judges, onetime prosecutors and law professors — many of whom oppose the death penalty — sent the letter to Scott Monday, expressing their concern that the governor had exceeded his authority by reassigning the case to a special prosecutor.
Within hours of Ayala’s announcement, Scott removed Ayala from the case of Loyd, accused of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon, and the execution-style shooting death of Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton after a nine-day manhunt.
Former Supreme Court justices Gerald Kogan and Harry Lee Anstead, both outspoken critics of Florida’s death penalty system, and Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte, a former American Bar Association president who also served as president of Florida State University, were among those who signed the missive, accusing Scott of overreaching his authority by removing Ayala.
“State Attorney Ayala,as the duly elected, constitutional officeholder of State Attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit,is solely empowered to make prosecutorial decisions for her circuit,” the legal experts wrote. “Your executive order that seeks to remove State Attorney Ayala from this position in the Loyd case ––absent any showing that her decision is violative of the state or federal Constitution–compromises the prosecutorial independence upon which the criminal justicesystem depends.”
Scott’s involvement in the case “sets a dangerous precedent,” the group objected.
“The governor picking and choosing how criminal cases are prosecuted, charged or handled in local matters is troubling as a matter of policy and practice. Indeed, there seems to be no precedent in Florida for this type of use of power,” they wrote.
The latest criticism of Scott’s decision comes as local, state and national leaders in the African-American community throw their support behind Ayala, the state’s first black elected state attorney.
— Posted by Dara Kam