The most visible case immediately affected by Ayala's decision is that of Markeith Loyd, who is charged with killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton. Would he still be actively championing the death penalty if the only victim in this case was Sade Dixon, Loyd's ex-girlfriend?
Meanwhile, the ACLU said it will hold a rally at 11 a.m.to support Ayala, the Orange-Osceola state attorney. The US Supreme Court ruled in January 2016 that the state's death penalty process was unconstitutional, and the state's high court ruled against a proposed fix to that law late a year ago. Scott signed a bill Tuesday to require a unanimous jury vote in death sentences.
The death penalty, Dixon-Daniels said, will not bring her daughter back and will cause an exhausting journey through the court system. "My office will thoroughly and painstakingly evaluate each capital offense and seek the death penalty only in the rare cases that are so heinous, atrocious, and undeserving of mercy as to be considered the worst of the worst in our society".
Orlando Police Chief John Mina said in a statement that he was "extremely upset". Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP's Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said Ayala was "at the forefront of smart-on-crime prosecutors" and issued a statement supporting her decision.
Even some death-penalty proponents agreed that Ayala enjoys latitude regarding whether to seek death sentences.
"I think the facts of this case -- that the prosecutor is black, that the victim is black, the victim's family wanted the death penalty to be waived and the governor appointed a new prosecutor -- clearly (Scott) is overstepping what he should be doing morally, and I can only think he is bowing to the law-enforcement community", said Florida International University law professor Stephen Harper, head of the school's Death Penalty Clinic.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi called the decision "a blatant neglect of duty", saying it sends a risky message to residents and visitors.
Scott wants her to step aside.
State and local law enforcement officials were sharply critical of Ayala's decision.
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A spokeswoman for the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, Tasha Jamerson, said the national association doesn't keep track of prosecutors who opt out of seeking the death penalty. "I've sought and had imposed the death penalty in over a dozen cases". "She was given no chance to live".
"I'm prepared for just about anything", King said.
"I have seen he video of Markeith Loyd executing Lt. Debra Clayton while she lay defenseless on the ground".
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.
'To put it bluntly, the law enforcement officers of Central Florida are outraged, ' said Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
A Florida state law allows the governor to appoint a different prosecutor if there is a "good and sufficient reason" to take a case away from the original prosecutor, and Scott cited that law when removing Ayala from the case.
And its details, requiring unanimous jury recommendations for sentencing in capital cases, arguably will make the death penalty fairer, and rarer, in Florida. "Life in prison is not a walk in the park".
Ashton said her position enters unchartered legal waters for a state attorney, and that he knows of no top prosecutor anywhere who has done so, certainly not in Florida.