After the State Attorney for Orange (Orlando) and Osceola counties, Florida, announced that during her tenure her office would not seek the death penalty in any cases, the governor removed her from a high profile first degree murder case involving an accused cop killer.
In her announcement, State Attorney Aramis Ayala said that after conducting a review, she concluded that there is no evidence to show that imposing the death penalty improves public safety or deters crime, and it costs the state more than a case in which a defendant receives a sentence of life in prison.
Following Ayala’s announcement, she was asked by Governor Rick Scott to recuse herself from the case in question. When Ayala declined to do so, Scott signed an executive order to transfer the case to a state attorney in an adjacent district. Ayala has indicated that her office will abide by Scott’s order.
In Florida, state attorneys are not required by law to seek the death penalty; they have great discretion in deciding who to charge with a crime, what charge(s) to file, and what penalty to seek. The general counsel for the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association said no other prosecutor in recent memory has refused to use the death penalty. According to the Daily Commercial, the other state attorneys in Florida issued a statement saying that they would continue to seek the death penalty.
Ayala is the first black elected prosecutor in Florida. Even though she was repeatedly asked about it, she did not make known her position on the death penalty during her campaign for office. Ayala was elected seven months ago in a judicial district that has grown from moderately conservative to liberal during the last two decades.
There are 381 prisoners on Florida’s death row. Twenty-two of them were convicted in the two counties within Ayala’s district.