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Ayala V. Scott Death Penalty Dispute Heads to Florida Supreme Court

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Ninth circuit Aramis Ayala and Governor Rick Scott were in a dispute over the handling of death penalty cases. File photos: WMFE.

Ninth circuit Aramis Ayala and Governor Rick Scott were in a dispute over the handling of death penalty cases. File photos: WMFE.

The dispute between Gov. Rick Scott and Orange-Osceola state attorney Aramis Ayala over the death penalty advances to state Supreme Court Wednesday morning with oral arguments. Attorneys for both sides will have twenty minutes to argue whether it was legal for Scott to take two dozen murder cases from Ayala’s office and reassign them to fifth circuit prosecutor Brad King.

The move came after Ayala announced in March that she would not pursue the death penalty in the ninth circuit, citing the case of Markeith Loyd, a man charged in the murder of his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon and an Orlando Police Lieutenant Debra Clayton.

“I see cases that may absolutely deserve death penalty,” said Ayala during a press conference outside the Orange County courthouse. “But a case that may deserve it because we feel that way must be supported by a statute that can be justly administered and enforced. That’s the issue.”

Scott requested that Ayala recuse herself from the case on the grounds that she lacked the authority to opt out of the death penalty. She refused to.

“That bothers me,” he told Orlando Fox affiliate Fox 35 in April. “I think every citizen deserves a state attorney that’s gonna fully prosecute cases. So I want to thank Brad King for taking on the cases. I’m gonna to review cases, and make sure we always think about the victim.”

Ayala has argued that Florida law grants her discretion in her jurisdiction as a prosecutor.

Since the dispute began back in March, lawmakers have voted to cut Ayala’s budget by $1.3 million, which kicks in July 1st. Attorneys at that office argue the cuts will cripple their overall performance, as well as their specific efforts to combat domestic violence and human trafficking.

Oral arguments begin at 9 a.m.

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Renata Sago