Aramis Ayala, the Orlando prosecutor who had said she would no longer seek the death penalty, lost her legal battle with Florida Gov. Rick Scott. The Florida Supreme Court ruled last week that the governor has the authority to reassign first-degree-murder cases to a different prosecutor. Scott took more than 25 cases from Ayala, and the state legislature cut her budget, NPR reports. Ayala now is setting up a death penalty review panel to evaluate whether to seek the death penalty in specific cases. She argues that this removes the rationale for reassigning her cases.
The panel will be made up of six prosecuting attorneys along with the attorney assigned to prosecute the specific case. If they unanimously determine that it is appropriate to seek the death penalty, they will make the recommendation to Ayala. Ayala, who took office in January, is the first black elected prosecutor in Florida. She says the death penalty is broken and does not achieve justice for victims’ families. The state Supreme Court said “Ayala’s blanket refusal to seek the death penalty in any eligible case … does not reflect an exercise of prosecutorial discretion; it embodies, at best, a misunderstanding of Florida law.” A spokesman for Scott said the governor would “continue to review” Ayala’s actions, saying “the governor must be convinced that the death penalty will be sought as outlined in Florida law, when appropriate.”