Prosecutor opposed to death penalty challenges Florida governor

State Attorney Aramis Ayala appears in court in Orlando, Fla., Monday, March 20, 2017, where she asked for Markeith Loyd's case to pause while she researches if Gov. Rick Scott had the authority to pull her off after she announced she would not be seeking the death penalty. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel via AP
State Attorney Aramis Ayala has asked that the murder case she was prosecuting be delayed while she researched Governor Rick Scott’s decision to pull her off it.

ORLANDO, Fla. — A Florida state attorney says the governor overstepped his bounds when he removed her from a case after she pledged to not pursue the death penalty in any trials.

State Attorney Aramis Ayala filed a motion in court Monday asking a judge to allow her to present that argument in court.

‘‘Every day state attorneys here in Florida make important decisions on who to charge, what to charge, and what to prioritize,’’ Ayala wrote in the motion. ‘‘Giving the governor the tremendous and unfettered discretion to interfere in that decision-making would be unprecedented and could undermine the entire justice system in Florida.’’


Governor Rick Scott removed Ayala from Markeith Loyd’s case and reassigned it to a prosecutor in a neighboring district after Ayala made her announcement against the death penalty last Thursday.

Get Ground Game in your inbox:
Daily updates and analysis on national politics from James Pindell.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Loyd is charged with first-degree murder in the killings of his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon, and Orlando Police Lieutenant Debra Clayton.

When asked in Tallahassee about Ayala’s motion, Scott said he was shocked Ayala wouldn’t seek the death penalty in Loyd’s case. ‘‘I’m very comfortable that I made the right decision and I had the authority to do it,’’ Scott said.

Scott said he would ‘‘deal with it at the time’’ if Ayala declined to seek the death penalty in other cases. He also did not rule out seeking her removal.

Associated Press