State Supreme Court Backs Gov. Scott On Shifting Death Penalty Cases

State Attorney Aramis Ayala Responds To The Supreme Court Decision

Florida Supreme Court Rules In Favor of Gov. Scott in Death Penalty Dispute

In a press conference Friday, Ayala stated that she respects the decision and is setting up a death penalty review panel in her office to independently evaluate whether to seek the death penalty. The governor gave 30 cases in all to neighboring State Attorney Brad King. Justice R. Fred Lewis concurred with the result, though he did not sign on to the majority opinion. That's why I've used my executive authority to reassign almost 30 cases to State Attorney Brad King. "Just as we ask jurors in order to seek death, this panel will notify me that it is their unanimous decision that a death penalty is to be sought". Justices Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince dissented.

"I have chosen this team of experienced prosecutors who I am extremely confident will follow the law", she said. "In the year 2015, only eight additional defendants went onto death row, whereas over 1000 individuals were prosecuted, charged and convicted with manslaughter and homicide". Citing a lack of public safety benefit and the legality of Florida's death sentencing scheme, Ayala also declared she wouldn't pursue the death penalty for cases under her administration.

The court was split 5-2 in its ruling.

Ayala's refusal to seek the death penalty "does not reflect an exercise of prosecutorial discretion; it embodies, at best, a misunderstanding of Florida law", Lawson wrote. Agarwal said the governor is not arguing that prosecutors must seek the death penalty for all cases.

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Late Thursday Scott released a statement that he would not recognize Ayala had changed her position and agreed to take death penalty cases unless and until she completely refuted her ban.

Crimes like these are pure evil and deserve the absolute full consideration of punishment - something that State Attorney Ayala completely ruled out.

"It's very important we think about the families, about the victims", Scott said.

Scott said Florida is a state where criminals are fully accountable for their crimes, especially crimes against law enforcement and children.

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At the time, Ayala said she based her decision on research showing that the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime, is discriminatory, is costly, leaves the families of victims in limbo for too long and is imposed on innocent people too often.

The court said Ayala was wrong to have a blanket policy of not seeking the death penalty.

She did not publicly express any opinions about the death penalty during her campaign, in which she defeated incumbent State Attorney Jeff Ashton in an August 2016 primary open only to registered Democrats. She says with this review panel she expects "all first-degree murder cases that occur in my jurisdiction will remain in my office".

Scott's spokesman, John Tupps, said the governor does not plan to reinstate any cases to Ayala, at least for now.

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The governor's office told WMFE that it has not seen details about the proposed panel.

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