Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Scott reassigns Orlando cop-slaying case after prosecutor refuses to seek death penalty

Markeith Loyd, the suspect in the slaying of his ex-girlfriend and an Orlando police office, attends his initial court appearance   Jan. 19 in Orlando.  [Orlando Sentinel via AP]

Markeith Loyd, the suspect in the slaying of his ex-girlfriend and an Orlando police office, attends his initial court appearance Jan. 19 in Orlando. [Orlando Sentinel via AP]

Florida Gov. Rick Scott took a case involving the killing of an Orlando police officer out of the hands of its prosecutor Thursday, hours after she announced that her office would no longer seek the death penalty.

Scott signed the order to remove Markeith Loyd's first-degree murder case from the office of State Attorney Aramis Ayala, which serves Orange County. Scott transferred the case to State Attorney Brad King, who represents Marion, Citrus, Lake, Sumter, and Hernando counties.

Loyd is charged with killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and police Lt. Debra Clayton.

Ayala said she made the decision after conducting a review and concluding that there is no evidence to show that imposing the death penalty improves public safety for citizens or law enforcement. She added that such cases are costly and drag on for years.

RELATED: Rick Scott reassigns case to another prosecutor.

Ayala was elected last fall in a judicial district that has grown from being moderately conservative to liberal over the past two decades.

"I have given this issue extensive, painstaking thought and consideration," Ayala said at a news conference. "What has become abundantly clear through this process is that while I do have discretion to pursue death sentences, I have determined that doing so is not in the best interests of this community or in the best interests of justice."

Buddy Jacobs, who has been general counsel for the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association for more than four decades, said no other prosecutor in recent memory has opted out of seeking the death penalty.

After Ayala announced her decision, Scott asked her to recuse herself from the case, but she refused. The reassignment applies only to Loyd's case and not Ayala's other duties since under Florida law, a governor can only suspend an elected official for "malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, habitual drunkenness, incompetence, or permanent inability to perform official duties."

Florida law allows a governor to reassign a case for "good and sufficient" reasons.

"She has made it clear that she will not fight for justice and that is why I am using my executive authority to immediately reassign the case," Scott said in a statement.

Ayala's decision ignited condemnation from some law enforcement leaders but also praise from some civil liberties groups.

Orlando police Chief John Mina said in a statement that he was "extremely upset."

"The heinous crimes that he (Loyd) committed in our community are the very reason that we have the death penalty as an option under the law," Mina said.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi called the decision "a blatant neglect of duty," saying it sends a dangerous message to residents and visitors.

But Adora Obi Nweze of the Florida state conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said it was a step in the right direction.

"Ending use of the death penalty in Orange County is a step toward restoring a measure of trust and integrity in our criminal justice system," she said.

A spokeswoman for the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, Tasha Jamerson, said the national association doesn't keep track of prosecutors who opt out of seeking the death penalty.

Ayala's decision comes just days after Scott signed a bill requiring a unanimous jury recommendation before the death penalty can be imposed.

Legal questions about Florida's death penalty law during the past year brought executions to a halt.

The U.S. Supreme Court in January 2016 declared the state's death penalty sentencing law unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges to make the ultimate decision.

The Legislature responded by overhauling the law to let the death penalty be imposed by at least a 10-2 jury vote.

In October, however, the state Supreme Court voted 5-2 to strike down the new law and require unanimous jury decisions for capital punishment.

Scott reassigns Orlando cop-slaying case after prosecutor refuses to seek death penalty 03/16/17 [Last modified: Thursday, March 16, 2017 5:20pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trumps travel ban to be replaced by restrictions tailored to certain countries

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's ban on travelers from six majority-Muslim countries is set to be replaced as soon as this weekend with more targeted restrictions on visits to the United States that would vary by country, the New York Times reports, citing officials familiar with the plans.

    President Donald Trump's ban on travelers from six majority-Muslim countries is set to be replaced as soon as this weekend with more targeted restrictions on visits to the United States that would vary by country, officials familiar with the plans said Friday. The new restrictions, aimed at preventing security threats from entering the United States, could go into effect Sunday after the conclusion of a 90-day policy review undertaken as part of the administration's original travel ban. Though the restrictions would differ for each country, people living in the targeted nations could be prevented from traveling to the United States or could face increased scrutiny as they seek to obtain a visa. [Associated Press]
  2. New World Brewery is closing. Where will all its concerts go now?

    Blogs

    Ever since it was announced that New World Brewery was closing its beloved Ybor City location and relocating to a spot farther north, there’s been an outpouring of nostalgia from artists, promoters and fans throughout the Tampa Bay music scene.

    Allison Weiss performed at New World Brewery in 2015.
  3. Farewell, New World Brewery: 11 Tampa music scene regulars toast a beloved venue

    Blogs

    It's hard to put into words what New World Brewery has meant to the Tampa music scene over the past 22 years.

    Matt Burke and Have Gun, Will Travel, shown performing at New World Brewery in 2009. Burke credits the venue with shaping how the band wanted to develop.
  4. Betsy DeVos rescinds Obama-era rules on campus sexual assault

    Blogs

    Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has said over and over again that sexual assault on campus is an issue she wants to get right.

    Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
  5. In dollars: How valuable are Florida's university football programs?

    Business

    The University of Florida football program is valued in a new study at $682 million, making it the most valuable university team in the state but still worth far less than several college programs topping $1 billion. Four years ago, UF's program was valued at just under $600 million.

    The University of Florida football program is valued at  $682 million, making it the most valuable by far in the Sunshine State. Pictured are UF cheerleaders leading the crowd in a Gator cheer on Clearwater Beach last December during the Outback Bowl Beach Day on Clearwater Beach. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]