Aramis Ayala

WTAS about SCOFLA, Scott, Ayala & death penalty

There’s been lots of reaction to the 5-2 decision from the Florida Supreme Court today backing up Gov. Rick Scott in his decision to strip 9th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Aramis Ayala of death penalty cases.

Here’s a sample:

“Today’s ruling is a great victory for the many victims and families whose lives have been forever changed by ruthless, evil acts of crime. I absolutely disagreed with State Attorney Ayala’s shortsighted decision to not fight for justice. That’s why I’ve used my executive authority to reassign nearly 30 cases to State Attorney Brad King. These horrific cases include Markeith Loyd, an accused cop killer who murdered his pregnant ex-girlfriend and Orlando Police Department Lt. Debra Clayton; Everett Glenn Miller, another alleged cop killer who is accused of ambushing and murdering two Kissimmee Police Officers, Officer Matthew Baxter and Sgt. Sam Howard; and Callene Marcia Barton and Lakesha Chantell Lewis, who are accused of killing a helpless toddler.
Crimes like these are pure evil and deserve the absolute full consideration of punishment – something that State Attorney Ayala completely ruled out. She unilaterally decided to not stand on the side of victims and their families, which is completely sickening. In Florida, we hold criminals fully accountable for the crimes they commit – especially those that attack our law enforcement community and innocent children.” — Gov. Rick Scott

“I respect the decision and appreciate that the Supreme Court of Florida has responded and provided clarification.
The Supreme Court of Florida ruled today that a case-specific determination must be made on first degree murder cases. To ensure today’s Court’s decision is heeded, I have organized a Death Penalty Review Panel comprised of 7 well-versed and experienced Assistant State Attorneys. This panel will evaluate each first-degree murder case in the 9th Judicial Circuit.
With implementation of this Panel, it is my expectation that going forward all first-degree murder cases that occur in my jurisdiction will remain in my office and be evaluated and prosecuted accordingly.” — State Attorney Aramis Ayala

“Today’s Florida Supreme Court decision is a tremendous victory for victims and their loved ones. As my Solicitor General argued, the Governor has every right to reassign these cases to prosecutors who will uphold the laws of our great state. This year, we have seen the brutal murders of law enforcement officers in State Attorney Aramis Ayala’s circuit, and her unconscionable decision to never seek the death penalty will not be tolerated. The governor and I will continue to do all we can to protect our citizens.” — Attorney General Pam Bondi

“Today is a victory for victims and their families, and I congratulate the Florida Supreme Court for such an unequivocal stand for the rule of law. I also commend Governor Scott for his courageous action in this case. The people of the state of Florida support the death penalty as a punishment for the most evil among us and those sworn to uphold the law and enforce the law need to remember that the people have spoken. I hope this message resonates loud and clear with all government officials who think they have the power to ignore or override the will of the people. When it comes to the most evil among us the people demand justice and today they got it.” — House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes.

“The decision by the Florida Supreme Court reaffirmed what the Governor and many members of the Legislature already knew – no State Attorney is above the law. State Attorney Aramis Ayala’s blanket refusal to seek the death penalty, even in the most heinous cases, including the cold-blooded murder of police officers, showcases a basic lack of understanding of the Florida Constitution.
“With the Governor’s authority to reassign cases no longer impeded by court challenges, victims and their families can have certainty in knowing that Governor Scott and State Attorney’s from around Florida will pursue every avenue to bring justice to those who’ve committed these horrific crimes.” — House Judiciary Committee Chairman Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor.

“This is a deeply disappointing decision. Florida law gives independently elected State Attorneys broad discretion to determine how best to seek justice in the cases they are responsible for prosecuting. Florida State Attorneys answer to the voters they represent, not to the governor.
Governor Scott’s intervention in State Attorney Ayala’s cases dangerously undermines the independence of our state’s prosecutors, and the Supreme Court’s regrettable decision today opens the door to further politicizing of our justice system.“ — ACLU of Florida Deputy Director Melba Pearson.

“Today, the Supreme Court affirmed that Governor Scott acted in the best interests of Floridians in reassigning more than 30 death penalty cases from State Attorney Ayala in the Ninth Judicial Circuit to Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brad King. As a representative of the law, Ayala was not serving to the best of her ability when she announced she would not consider the death penalty in any of those cases.
We thank Governor Scott for his continued support of law enforcement in this great state, and his desire to ensure justice is served without bias or prejudice. The Sheriffs of Florida will continue to be guardians of the law and protectors of every Florida resident.” — Florida Sheriffs Association

“This ruling is certainly a victory for victims of crime and their families, especially for the colleagues, families and friends of fallen law enforcement officers. The Florida Police Chiefs Association feels very strongly that when an officer is harmed or killed, every sentencing option should be on the table. We appreciate that the Court has affirmed this and we are very grateful for Governor Scott’s leadership on this issue.” — Miami Shores Police Chief Kevin Lystad, president of the Florida Police Chiefs Association.

Prosecutor: Proposed budget cuts ‘threaten public safety’

Orlando-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala, targeted by GOP lawmakers for her refusal to seek the death penalty in the high-profile case of accused cop-killer Markeith Loyd, warned that budget cuts aimed at slashing 21 positions and $1.3 million from her office would “severely impact her agency’s ability to prosecute crimes” and “threaten public safety.”

Ayala sparked the wrath of Republican officials, including Gov. Rick Scott, after announcing earlier this month that she would not pursue death for Loyd — accused of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon, and the execution-style killing of Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton — or defendants in any other capital capital cases during her time in office.

Scott swiftly removed Ayala from the Loyd case and reassigned it to Ocala-area State Attorney Brad King, an outspoken death penalty proponent.

The governor’s ousting created a groundswell of support for Ayala, the first black elected state attorney in Florida, and focused new attention on the state’s long-troubled death penalty. More than 100 law professors and legal experts, most of them death penalty opponents, maintain that Scott lacks the authority to remove her from the case.

A number of national organizations, including the NAACP, are backing  Ayala, and her opposition to the death penalty has galvanized opposition, although there’s little chance that the latest spotlight will sway the Florida Legislature’s support for the death sentence.

Earlier this week, House and Senate budget committees proposed slashing Ayala’s budget by $1.3 million and axing 21 positions from her office.

But death penalty cases only make up less than .01 percent of the total cases handled by Ayala’s agency, her spokeswoman Eryka Washington said in a statement issued Wednesday.

“The other 99.99% include non-capital homicides, sexual batteries, sex crimes against children, domestic violence, drug and human trafficking, carjackings, robberies, burglaries, DUI’s thefts, aggravated assaults, batteries and other violent and non-violent crimes,” Washington wrote.

The proposed budget and staff cuts “would severely impact this agency’s ability to effectively prosecute crimes, threaten public safety and ultimately have an economic impact on the central Florida community,” Washington added.

The proposed cuts could also harm the region’s tourism industry, Washington warned.

“The millions of tourist and people who call central Florida home are able to enjoy the public safety this community offers.  They should not be impacted by political posturing. It is my hope that we all stand in solidarity to ensure the public safety for the State of Florida,” she wrote.

Ayala’s response to the proposed budget cuts comes a day before her supporters are scheduled to rally outside the Capitol.

Individuals traveling on buses from Orlando, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Jacksonville, Pensacola and South Florida are expected to participate in the event.

Sponsors of the ‘Ride for Aramis’ include the NAACP, Latino Justice, Florida Council of Churches, Orange County Black Voice, Let Your Voice Be Heard Orlando, Color of Change, The 8th Amendment Project, and Equal Justice USA, according to a press release.

___ Posted by Dara Kam

Legal eagles blast Scott for removing prosecutor

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 o 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