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Fla. Gov. Removes Cop Killing Case Prosecutor For Refusing Death Penalty

Scott had asked for State Attorney Aramis Ayala to recuse herself from the prosecution but he said she refused

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    Fla. Gov. Removes Cop Killing Case Prosecutor For Refusing Death Penalty
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    Florida Governor Rick Scott

    Florida's governor is reassigning a case involving the killing of a police officer after an Orlando prosecutor said she no will longer seek the death penalty.

    A spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday that the governor is reassigning the Markeith Loyd case to a prosecutor in a neighboring district northwest of Orlando.

    Scott's action came hours after the top prosecutor in Orlando announced her office will no longer seek the death penalty in cases.

    Scott had asked for State Attorney Aramis Ayala to recuse herself from the prosecution but he said she refused.

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    "Earlier today, I called on State Attorney Ayala to immediately recuse herself from this case. She informed me this afternoon that she refuses to do that. 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 to State Attorney Brad King," Scott said in a statement.

    Loyd's case is the most visible one affected by Ayala's decision. He is charged with killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and Lt. Debra Clayton.

    Ayala says there is no evidence of improved public safety for citizens or law enforcement with the death penalty, and that such cases are costly and drag on for years.

    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.

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    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.

    The legislation was aimed at restarting death penalty cases, after 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.