Fla. prosecutor removed from cop-killing case over death penalty decision

 Florida State Attorney Aramis Ayala speaking to reporters on Thursday, March 16, 2017. She announced she would not be seeking the death penalty in any of her cases and was soon after removed from the case of accused cop-killer Markeith Loyd by Governor Rick Scott.

WKMG

ORLANDO, Fla. - Just hours after Florida State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced Thursday that she will not seek the death penalty in any case under her administration, including the case of a man accused of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and a police officer, the state’s governor asked her to recuse herself from the Markeith Loyd case, reports CBS affiliate WKMG

When Ayala refused, Governor Rick Scott removed her.

“I completely disagree with State Attorney Ayala’s decision and comments,” Scott said. “She has made it abundantly clear that she will not fight for justice for Lt. Debra Clayton and our law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day.”

Ayala is the State Attorney for Orange and Osceola counties. Ayala cited time, resources and cost to taxpayers in her decision to not pursue the death penalty for Loyd or any other accused criminal. Loyd, 41, is accused of shooting and killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon, 24, on Dec. 13 at her home in Pine Hills. Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton was shot four times outside an Orlando Walmart in January after she received a tip that Loyd was at the store. 

“By choosing to seek life sentences over death, we can assure that violent offenders will never be released. They will never continue to drain resources from this state with decades of appeals,” Ayala said.

oralndo-cop-shot-suspect.jpg

Orlando shooting suspect Markeith Loyd, whose police-released photograph is seen superimposed on the scene of the shooting of an Orlando police officer. 

Orlando Police Department/WKMG/CBS News

Law enforcement leaders in central Florida were also disheartened by the decision and urged Ayala to reconsider.

“I have seen the video of Markeith Loyd executing Lt. Debra Clayton while she lay defenseless on the ground. She was given no chance to live. A cop killer -- who also killed his pregnant girlfriend -- should not be given that chance,” Orlando police Chief John Mina said in a statement posted to Twitter. “The heinous crimes that he committed in our community are the very reason we have the death penalty as an option under the law.”

In making her announcement, Ayala referenced a bill passed Tuesday that will require a unanimous jury recommendation before the death penalty can be imposed.

“I have determined doing so is not in the best interest of this community or in the best interest of justice,” Ayala said. “By choosing to seek life sentences over death, we can assure that violent offenders will never be released. They will never continue to drain resources from this state with decades of appeals.”

Ayala told reporters that she understands that members of the law enforcement community may be upset. She said she reached out to Clayton’s husband on Wednesday, but has not yet spoken to every victim’s family.

WKMG reports that Gov. Scott assigned State Attorney Brad King to the Loyd case in an executive order issued Thursday afternoon.