State Attorney: No Death Penalty For Markeith Loyd, Future Cases

Prosecutors will not seek the death penalty against a suspect charged with fatally shooting a police lieutenant in Orlando, according to the police chief. Loyd had been a wanted fugitive since December 13 when he was accused of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon, 24, and wounding her brother. After she refused, the governor signed an executive order, provided for in Florida law that says he can appoint a special prosecutor if, "for any good and sufficient reason, he determines the ends of justice would be best served".

The U.S. Supreme Court in January 2016 declared the state's death penalty sentencing law unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges to make the ultimate decision. On Monday, Scott signed a new statute that would require a unanimous recommendation by a jury prior to imposing the death penaly, but Ayala rejected that enactment.

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

Ashton said Ayala was excited about having the opportunity to prosecute the case, though she didn't stay long enough to do so.

After a discussion with Scott on Thursday afternoon, Ayala issued a statement saying she offered to have "a full conversation" about her decision, but he "declined to explore my reasoning".

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The stance is significant because Orange County, where Ayala is a chief prosecutor, is among four of Florida's 67 counties that has produced more than five executions since 1976, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund said.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams also issued statement that said in part, "I want to acknowledge Governor Rick Scott for his swift action in addressing this matter by reassigning the case to another circuit".

Bob Cortes and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, slammed Ayala's stand as "dangerous" and outrageous.

Zaldivar said that after Ayala's announcement on Thursday, he has no confidence in her.

Advocates seeking to abolish the death penalty said Ayala sent a powerful message.

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"If those circumstances can be proven by facts, so that I believe the death penalty can be sustained by the court, then I seek the death penalty", King said. The murder of a police officer, he added, is an "automatic aggravator" that warrants the death penalty. "It is refreshing to see her live up to her commitments and embrace policies that achieve accountability and safety without sacrificing fairness", said Wes Lathrop, Faith in Florida executive director.

Ashton also said he believes Ayala may have adopted the position to please her political benefactor, NY progressive activist billionaire George Soros, who ran an independent campaign on her behalf last summer.

"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", he said.

"I'm prepared for just about anything", King said.

Reno, who was Miami-Dade County's state attorney for 15 years before former President Bill Clinton appointed her as the nation's top law enforcer, never made a secret of her personal opposition to the death penalty. "The heinous crime that he committed in our community is the very reason we have the death penalty as an option under the law".

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Ayala told reporters that she understands that members of the law enforcement community may be upset.


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