The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Gov. Rick Scott (R.) has the power to remove cases from controversial state's attorney Aramis Ayala (D.).
The ruling, 5-2, means that it was within Scott's legal authority under the state Constitution to remove 24 capital cases from Ayala's purview, the Orlando Political Observer reports.
The court initially heard the case in July. It was prompted by Ayala's refusal in March, just three months after entering office, to seek the death penalty in the case of Markeith Lloyd, charged with killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton. She insisted further on never seeking the death penalty, saying it is costly, inhumane, and can cause proceedings to drag on for years.
In response, Gov. Scott removed Ayala from the case and 23 others, condemning her "complete refusal to consider capital punishment" as "an unacceptable message that she is not interested in considering every available option in the fight for justice." Ayala responded by filing the suit decided Thursday.
The court was explicitly critical of Ayala's handling of the case in its majority opinion, authored by Justice C. Alan Lawson, a Scott appointee.
"by effectively banning the death penalty in the Ninth Circuit—as opposed to making case-specific determinations as to whether the facts of each death-penalty eligible case justify seeking the death penalty—Ayala has exercised no discretion at all," Lawson wrote.