Death penalty stance in Markeith Loyd case draws criticism

Gov. Rick Scott removed Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala from the case against murder suspect Markeith Loyd after she publicly announced Thursday that she would not pursue the death penalty against Loyd.

"I completely disagree with State Attorney Ayala's decision and comments and I am asking her to recuse herself immediately from this case", Scott said in a statement.

Scott's action came hours after the top prosecutor in Orlando announced her office will no longer seek the death penalty in cases.

Gov. Rick Scott has asked that she recuse herself from Loyd's case. "I have seen the video of Markeith Lloyd executing Lt. Debra Clayton while she lay defenseless on the ground".

Loyd is the one, investigators say, who gunned down Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton, and is also charged with murdering his pregnant girlfriend.

Ayala said the death penalty ends up costing more than a life sentence and drags victims' families through a painful process.

State law gives state attorneys broad discretion to determine how best to pursue each case, including whether or not to seek the death penalty.

Echoing Rep. Cortes, Chief Mina said "heinous crimes" such as these "are the very reason we have the death penalty as an option under the law". She also said it was more expensive to put someone on death row rather than put them in jail for life and that the endless appeals of death row inmates can actually prevent victim's families from achieving closure.

Shortly after Clayton was shot, Orange County motorcycle deputy Norman Lewis was struck and killed by a motorist while responding to the manhunt for Loyd.

Orlando Police Chief John Mina said he was "extremely upset" about the decision.

Ayala did win praise from death penalty opponents who say that the move challenges the racial and socioeconomic disparities associated with capital punishment.

"I am outraged and sickened by this loss of life and many families' lives have been forever changed because of these senseless murders", Scott said.

A spokeswoman for the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, Tasha Jamerson, said the national association doesn't keep track of prosecutors who opt out of seeking the death penalty.

Florida is one of 32 states that is authorized to use the death penalty. "State Attorney Aramis Ayala's decision today sends a unsafe message to residents and visitors of the greater Orlando area - furthermore, it is a blatant neglect of duty and a shameful failure to follow the law as a constitutionally elected officer", Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi declared in a written statement.

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