A Florida prosecutor who says she will not pursue the death penalty in any cases for the duration of her term has filed a lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott, CNN reports.
The lawsuit is in response to Scott’s decision to strip Aramis Ayala’s office of 23 first-degree murder cases because she refused to consider the death penalty. All of the cases were reassigned to another prosecutor.
Ayala, who serves as state attorney for the 9th Judicial Circuit, said the move violated her constitutional rights, affected her reputation and deprived those who elected her into office “of the benefit of their votes.”
“The governor did not take this drastic step because of any misconduct on Ayala’s part, but simply because he disagreed with her reasoned prosecutorial determination not to seek the death penalty under current circumstances,” the lawsuit states.
Scott signed executive orders reassigning the cases on Mar. 16, April 3 and April 6 to 5th Judicial Circuit State Attorney, Brad King. King is also listed as a defendant in the suit.
The dispute started with the case of Markeith Loyd. The 42-year-old fugitive was captured on Jan. 17 following a nationwide manhunt. Loyd is charged in the murder of Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton, 42, on Jan. 9. He is also charged with murdering his pregnant 24-year-old ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon, in December.
“The moment I heard that she had decided not to prosecute Markeith Loyd to the full extent of the law, it bothered me personally,” the governor said Tuesday, WFTV reported.
“These families deserve a state attorney who will aggressively prosecute Loyd to the fullest extent of the law and justice must be served,” he said in a statement Tuesday.
Ayala is arguing that state law gives her “absolute” discretion when determining if and how to prosecute cases. According to the lawsuit, “the defendants violated her rights “when they assumed the authority to veto the prosecutorial discretion of an independent elected official.”