Organizations rally to protest governor at State Capital
By Devin Heflin, Orlando Times Staff Writer & Louis C. Ward, Orlando Times Contributing Writer
CENTRAL FLORIDA – Organizations across the state of Florida are coming together in Florida’s capital to protest the now two week old removal of State Attorney Aramis Ayala by the state’s Governor, Rick Scott.
Scott’s decision to remove Ayala in place of Lake County based State Attorney Brad King has generated debate on both the legality and constitutionality of Scott’s executive powers as Governor.
Ayala refused to seek the death penalty for Markeith Loyd, who is alleged to have murdered his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon and Orlando Police officer Deborah Clayton, in two separate incidents, two months apart.
Loyd’s initial evasion of capture led to week long manhunt, which culminated in his capture on Jan.16, 2017.
State Attorney Ayala has stated in previous interviews that she will not pursue the death penalty for any cases.
Ayala, 41, is a former prosecutor with the ninth judicial court and is a former public defender. A Saginaw, Michigan native, Ayala graduated from the University of Central Florida, the University of Michigan and the University of Detroit, Mercy School of Law.
She defeated State Attorney Jeff Ashton on Nov.9, 2016 to become the sunshine state’s first Black State Attorney.
Florida law at current stipulates that Ayala is within her prosecutorial rights to not decide on a capital punishment for murder. The Florida Constitution leaves the discretion up to the State Attorney.
Nov.9, 2016 – Aramis Ayala is elected as the new state Attorney, representing Orange and Osceola County, defeating longtime Prosecutor and Orlando attorney Jeff Ashton.
March 13, 2017 – Senate Bill
280 is signed into law by Governor Rick Scott, authorizing the requirement of unanimous juries for death penalty sentencing.
Mach 16, 2017 – State Attorney Aramis Ayala reiterates a campaign promise, that she will not pursue the death penalty in any cases.
March 16, 2017 at 2:01 p.m. – Florida Governor Rick Scott asks the state attorney to recuse herself from the Markeith Loyd case.
March 16, 2017 – Governor Scott has removed State Attorney Ayala from the Loyd case.
March 17, 2017 – Governor Scott appoints State Attorney Brad King, who represents Alachua, Bradford, Marion and Lake Counties to replace Ayala. King has stated he will pursue
the death penalty.
March 21, 2017 – State Attorney filed a motion to stay the execution of Markeith Loyd.
The principal duties of the state’s attorney are usually mandated by law and include representing the State in all criminal trials for crimes which occurred in the state’s attorney’s geographical jurisdiction. The geographical jurisdiction of a state’s attorney may be de-lineated by the boundaries of a county, judicial circuit, or judicial district.
State prosecutor duties generally include charging crimes through information and/or grand jury indictments. After levying criminal charges, the state’s attorney will then prosecute those charged with a crime. This includes conducting discovery, plea bargaining, and trial.
In some jurisdictions, the state’s attorney may act as chief counsel for city police, county police, state police and all state law enforcement agencies with-in the state’s attorney’s juris-diction.
The coincidental timing of Aramis removal arrives after the coronation of Senate Bill 280, which stipulates that a unanimous jury is required in all Florida death penalty sentences.
“This legislation satisfies the constitutional requirements announced by the Court in the Hurst and Perry opinions, and is consistent with the position the Senate took last year when we considered legislation requiring a unanimous jury verdict in capital cases.” Senate President Joe Negron said.
“This bill will make certain that death penalty cases in Florida precede in a timely manner.”
Florida lawmakers also passed a bill last year requiring a 10-2 vote by juries for capital punishment sentences but the Florida Supreme Court ruled in October that unanimous juries are required.
Some legislators, however, are concerned they’ll have to return to clear up confusion surrounding the death penalty again next year.
The Florida Supreme Court’s ruling only applies to cases dating after 2002, the date of an important U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring juries, not judges, to issue death sentences.
“We’re sending a message to this Governor that we will not stop. We will not support unlawful politics”, Beverly Colson Neal said.
Neal serves as president of the Orange County Branch NAACP and joins other county NAACP branches as well as the state Branch NAACP on Thursday to protest Scott and the legislators who support his policies.
The Seminole County, Osceola County, Lake County, Brevard County and Flagler County branches of the NAACP will also join the Orange County Branch on their ride to Tallahassee, Fla. The bus rides are free for anyone that wishes to ride and food will be provided.
“We stand with Aramis and we stand against Scott. If we show that we can be easily turned by this decision, what other decisions and abuse of power will we allow?” Neal said.
“The Seminole County Branch NAACP stands fully behind Orlando County State Attorney Aramis Ayala’s decision not to seek the death penalty in future cases. The overwhelming evidence shows that the pursuit of the death penalty results in community resources being spent on a costly, unnecessary, fallible, and racially-biased punishment.” Marvin Carroll, President of the Seminole County Branch NAACP said.
“We stand with Aramis”, said Adora Nweze, state NAACP President.
Dubbed, the “Rally in Tally”, the “Freedom Ride” to the state’s capital on Thursday is hosted by Orange County Black Voice and Let Your Voice be Heard, Inc. They are offering free bus rides to any who wish to attend.
Those who would like to ride as a passenger for Thursday’s protest are to meet at the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, located at 1101 S. Goldwyn Ave., Orlando, Fla., next door to the Hope Church. The buses will depart at 7 a.m. that morning for Tallahassee.
“This overreach and abuse of power will not be tolerated, and we the voters, will travel to Tallahassee to address Governor Scott and other elected officials over this occurrence, among members of the national press who will be there exclusively to hear our voices!
“We will show that there is strength in numbers and together anything can be changed. We voted for, and elected State Attorney Aramis Ayala for a reason; let’s show the com-munity has her back.”