Gov. Scott removes state attorney from Markeith Loyd case

File photo, Florida Governor Rick Scott

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA)  —  Florida Governor Rick Scott joins a growing list of lawmakers and officials who are outraged over State Attorney Aramis Ayala’s refusal to consider the death penalty in the case of accused cop killer Markeith Loyd.

The governor asked Ayala to recuse herself from the case on Thursday and when she refused, she was relieved of her duties and replaced with State Attorney Brad King.

“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, ” the governor said in a statement.

“I am outraged and sickened by this loss of life and many families’ lives have been forever changed because of these senseless murders. These families deserve a state attorney who will aggressively prosecute Markeith Loyd to the fullest extent of the law and justice must be served.”

Loyd was charged with two first-degree murder counts and other charges in the deaths of Lt. Debra Clayton and his ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon. Clayton was gunned down Jan. 9 outside a Wal-Mart while attempting to capture Loyd.

With more than two decades of law enforcement experience and nearly a decade as a Hillsborough County Assistant State Attorney, Michael Krohn of the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association says each needs to be treated differently.

“Each case should be viewed independently and individually and a decision should be made off of the facts of that case,” Khron told News Channel 8.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri called it reprehensible and appalling that a police officer can be executed and a State Attorney, elected to enforce the laws, refuses to do her job.

Ayala claims the death penalty doesn’t deter crime, that there’s no public safety benefit, and the cost to handle legal appeals far outweighs the cost of housing an inmate for life.

“It is a serious decision with grave consequences for victim’s families, this community and for defendants and their families,” Ayala said.  “I have given this extensive and painstaking thought and consideration. What has become abundantly clear through this process is that while I currently do have discretion to seek death sentences, I have determined that doing so is not in the best interest of this community or the best interest of justice.  I will continue to hold people who do harm to this community accountable for their actions. I will do so in a way that is fair, sensible and just.”

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe that he’s dumbfounded by Ayala’s decision and that the refusal to even consider the death penalty “seems to be bordering on the dereliction of duty.”

State Attorney Andrew Warren, for the Thirteenth Judicial Court in Hillsborough issued this statement:

“Whether to seek a sentence of death is one of the most sobering and important decisions any State Attorney makes, and we applaud the Legislature and Governor for elevating the standard by requiring a unanimous jury recommendation to obtain a death sentence.   Each State Attorney, including Ms. Ayala, after careful and meticulous evaluation, has the full, legal discretion to determine for his or her jurisdiction, whether to employ this ultimate sanction.  My office will thoroughly and painstakingly evaluate each capital offense and seek the death penalty only in the rare cases that are so heinous, atrocious, and undeserving of mercy as to be considered the worst of the worst in our society.”

The Florida Sheriffs association released the following statement in support of the governor’s move:

“By refusing to pursue the death penalty in this horrific case, State Attorney Ayala missed an opportunity to ensure that justice was served for the Clayton and Dixon families. The Florida Sheriffs will not stand idly by and watch as Lloyd is not prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law after executing a hero, Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton, and murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend. Orange County Deputy Norman Lewis was also tragically killed during the manhunt.”

“We applaud these actions. Justice must be served and must be fitting of the crime. A killer does not deserve a reduced consequence of living while his victims and their families must deal with death,” said the association’s president, Sheriff Jerry Demings.


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