A Central Florida lawmaker is now urging Gov. Rick Scott to suspend the Orlando state attorney who last week said she would not seek the death penalty in any cases, including that of a man accused of the execution-style shooting of a police officer.
On Thursday, Scott removed State Attorney Aramis Ayala from that case and reassigned it to another state attorney, but Ayala challenged the action in a court filing Monday.
Rep. Bob Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs, said in a letter to Scott on Monday that the governor should suspend Ayala from office.
"If she continues to follow through with her promise to not hear current death penalty cases, including six pending cases, justice may be thwarted for additional victims of heinous crimes," Cortes said in a statement accompanying the letter. "I appreciate the Governor’s swift response thus far. I am confident he will continue to act within the scope of Florida law to ensure that justice is done for Markeith Loyd’s victims and everyone in the Ninth Circuit."
Loyd is accused of killing Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton, as well as his ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon.
Earlier Monday, Scott left open the possibility of suspending Ayala, but he has not made any moves to do so.
"With regards to that, we're continuing to look at our options," he said in response to reporters' questions.
Scott has authority under the Constitution to suspend Ayala from office but it takes action by the state Senate to remove her. At least one state senator has already indicated he thinks the state attorney should be out of a job: Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.
The full text of Cortes' letter is included below:
Dear Governor Scott,
Thank you very much for your quick actions yesterday regarding the issue with our Ninth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Aramis Ayala. Her decision to not seek the death penalty against Markeith Loyd was against the Legislative intent set forward in Florida Statute 782.04. Your actions have secured this case moving as it should without the personal feelings of a State Attorney being a distraction to all parties involved. However, her other comments in her press conference concern me even further.
I am respectfully requesting from your office an official review of ALL pending death penalty cases in the Ninth Judicial Circuit. I further request that since State Attorney Aramis Ayala has indicated she will not seek the death penalty in all cases, past and present, that you, by executive order, reassign ALL cases to other State Attorneys per Florida Statute 27.14. It is obvious these cases will not be handled in the manner they should by the current State Attorney.
It has come to my attention that as of March 16, 2017, the State Attorney’s office has already filed intent not to seek the death penalty on current cases. One current example is The State of Florida vs. Larry D. Perry. Therefore, I am also respectfully asking that you suspend State Attorney Aramis Ayala from her position on the Ninth Judicial Circuit on the basis of Article IV, Section 7 of the Florida Constitution.
I await your response and diligence on this most important manner.
I thank you for your service.
Photo: State Rep. Bob Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs, center, has called for State Attorney Aramis Ayala to be suspended after she publicly said she would not seek the death penalty while in office as the top prosecutor for Orange and Osceola counties. (MICHAEL AUSLEN | Times/Herald)