Fallout from decision not to seek death penalty in Markeith Loyd case continues

Markeith Loyd, suspected of fatally shooting a Florida police officer, attends his initial court appearance Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, at the Orange County Jail, in Orlando, Fla. Loyd spoke out of turn and was defiant during the appearance on charges of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend. He was injured during his arrest Tuesday night following a weeklong manhunt. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel via AP, Pool)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — More fallout in the case of Orange County State Attorney Aramis Ayala who said she won’t seek the death penalty in any case she prosecutes, including the case of accused cop-killer Markeith Loyd.

Anger and outrage from law enforcement was felt throughout the state, as police officials, associations and agencies, including Pinellas county sheriff Bob Gualtieri criticized her move.

But many community leaders and residents are coming to State Attorney Ayala’s side, including the family of one of Loyd’s alleged victims.

“Seeking the death penalty is not an option,” Stephanie Dixon-Daniels, the mother of Sade Dixon, said in a press conference Friday morning.

Dixon-Daniels supports the Orange County State Attorney’s decision not to seek the death penalty in the case of Markeith Loyd.

He’s accused of murdering her daughter and their unborn child, as well as gunning down Orlando Police Lieutenant Debra Clayton.

For Dixon’s mother, life behind bars will bring closure.

“I don’t want to have to be dragged back to court,” Dixon-Daniels said. “I don’t want to have to keep remembering the death of my daughter each and every time.”

On Friday, several organizations, including Amnesty International and the NAACP sided with Ayala and her reasons for not pursuing the death penalty.

The day before, Ayala explained her reasoning, in part saying, “Number one—death penalty has no public safety benefit. Number two—the death penalty does not increase safety for law enforcement officers. Number three—the death penalty generally is not a deterrent.”

When Ayala refused to recuse herself, Governor Rick Scott pulled her off the case stating, “She has made it clear that she will not fight for justice…… These families deserve a state attorney who will aggressively prosecute Markeith Loyd to the fullest extent of the law and justice must be served….”

Hillsborough County public defender Julieann Holt believes making a blanket statement to include all death-penalty cases wasn’t the best idea on Ayala’s part.

“Really what she could have done was on a case by case basis made the announcement,’ Holt told News Channel 8. “I think when you start to interfere with discretionary calls, then that’s a very slippery slope from a Constitutional standpoint.”

Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren says it comes down to discretion. He’ll seek the death penalty only if it meets the requirements of the Florida and Supreme courts.

“You handle cases based on the particular facts of each case but it was within the State Attorney’s discretion of how they’re going to charge cases,” Warren said.

So, will Governor Scott step in and assign special prosecutors in every single death case Ayala could prosecute, which averages about 20 a year?

That remains to be seen.

 

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