By Frederick H. Lowe
The National Bar Association, the oldest and largest national network of African-American lawyers and judges, blasted Florida Gov. Rick Scott for removing Aramis D. Ayala, the first black state’s attorney elected to office in Florida, from a case because she will not seek the death penalty for accused murderer Markeith Loyd.
The 41- year-old Loyd is charged with shooting to death Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton and Sade Dixon, his pregnant ex-girlfriend. Ayala is the State’s Attorney for Orange-Osceola, Fla. She was elected to office in November.
“I called on State’s Attorney Ayala to immediately recuse herself from this case,” Gov. Scott said in a statement. “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.”
Ayala argues the death penalty has failed as a deterrent, and has not protected law enforcement officers. She added the length of time between sentencing and execution often exceeds a decade. Life sentences, she added, means violent offenders never will be released.
Sade Dixon’s parents support Ayala’s decision not to subject them to the ordeal of extended death penalty proceedings. “Life, no chance of parole, we get closure,” Ron Daniels, Dixon’s father, said on the website of the Death Penalty Information Center. “But now if you give him the death penalty, he comes back. Every time he appeals this family or any family has to relive that case all over again.”
The National Bar Association, which is based in Washington, D.C., said it supports “her right to exercise her authority and prosecutorial discretion by choosing not to seek the death penalty for Loyd.”
The organization called Gov. Scott’s move ” unprecedented and without legal authority.”
But a Florida judge supported Scott’s decision to remove Ayala, and Republican legislators are seeking to cut her office’s budget by $1.3 million, which would eliminate 21 positions because of her position on the death penalty.
A coalition of the 119 judges and lawyers sent a letter to Gov. Scott “advising him that he had overstepped his bounds by removing her. We agree. The case should be immediately returned to oversight of State’s Attorney Ayala,” NBA said. Ayala is an NBA member.