Florida Gov. Rick Scott yesterday took away 21 more first-degree murder cases from Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala because she refuses to seek the death penalty, the Orlando Sentinel reports. All of them will be handled by State Attorney Brad King, who serves five other counties. “Ms. Ayala remains steadfast in her position that the Governor is abusing his authority and has compromised the independence and integrity of the criminal justice system,” said her spokeswoman. Yesterday’s move comes three weeks after Scott removed Ayala from the case of accused cop killer Markeith Loyd after she announced she will not seek the death penalty for him or anyone else.
That decision made Ayala a darling of death-penalty opponents, but set off both pro- and anti-Ayala demonstrations in Orlando and Tallahassee. Six of the new cases involve murder defendants who have not yet come to trial. The others have already been sentenced to death, and some have cases on appeal. Louis Virelli, a law professor at Stetson University, said the governor’s decision could set a bad precedent. “When viewed on a case-by-case basis, this remedy by the governor strikes me as dangerous,” Virelli said, adding that Scott’s action “opens the door for governors of all political parties to cherry-pick cases away from prosecutors.”