A Florida state prosecutor has been taken off 21 first-degree murder cases by the state’s governor because she has refused to consider the death penalty as a possible sentence .
Orlando-area State Attorney Aramis Ayala, who is a Democrat, has accused Republican governor Rick Scott of “abusing his power” and has pledged to fight her removal from one case at the US Supreme Court.Defendant Markeith Loyd is accused of killing a police officer and his pregnant ex-girlfriend earlier this year.
Mr Scott removed Ms Ayala from the Loyd case three weeks ago after she announced she would not seek the death penalty for him or anyone else, prompting pro and anti demonstrations in the state capital, Tallahassee.
Eryka Washington, a spokeswoman for Ms Ayala said: “Ms Ayala remains steadfast in her position the governor is abusing his authority and has compromised the independence and integrity of the criminal justice system.”
Mr Scott, however, said it is about putting victims first: “If you look at these cases they are horrendous cases… And so I’m going to continue to think about the families and that’s how I made my decision today.
“Some of the victims include a teenager whose life was taken before he could bravely testify as a witness to a dangerous crime, a single mother who was abducted and killed as she called for help and a young child whose life was brutally cut short.”
A Florida prosecutor elected with $1 million from liberal billionaire George Soros has been removed from all first-degree murder cases after refusing to seek the death penalty for any suspect, including an accused cop killer.
State Attorney Aramis Ayala, who won an upset victory in November after receiving $1.38 million from the Soros-backed Florida Safety & Justice PAC, had 21 first-degree murder cases in Orange and Osceola counties reassigned Monday to other prosecutors by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican.
Read more at the Washington Times
The issue has divided opinion along political and racial lines, with civil rights and faith groups praising Ms Ayala’s stance, and Republican lawmakers and law enforcement officers criticising it.
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, said: “Whenever decisions are made regarding the prosecution of individuals, the prosecutor must take into consideration the will and the desire of the victim’s survivors.”
But Democratic state Representative Sean Shaw called Scott’s actions a “gross abuse of his power”.
He argued Mr Scott’s actions threatened to destroy the independence of state attorneys, who are elected representatives in their own right.
In court papers, Ms Ayala, the state’s first black elected prosecutor, said removing a prosecutor because of a disagreement over her use of discretion was “unprecedented”.
The Florida Legislative Black Caucus went further, with one member calling the governor’s intervention in the Loyd case “a lynching”.
(c) Sky News 2017: Anti-death penalty prosecutor removed from murder cases
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