Pros­e­cu­tor: Gover­nor changed his view on med­dling in cases

South Florida Times - - FRONT PAGE - By MIKE SCH­NEI­DER

OR­LANDO, Fla. - A Florida pros­e­cu­tor who re­fuses to seek the death penalty said Mon­day in court doc­u­ments that Florida Gov. Rick Scott has changed his views on whether it's proper to in­ter­fere with pros­e­cu­tors' de­ci­sions.

State At­tor­ney Aramis Ayala in Or­lando is fight­ing Scott's or­ders to trans­fer al­most two dozen cases from her of­fice af­ter she said her of­fice wouldn't pur­sue the death penalty. Ayala's court fil­ing with the Florida Supreme Court says that in four re­cent in­stances where cit­i­zens wrote to Scott to com­plain about the han­dling of crim­i­nal cases, his of­fice replied that he couldn't in­ter­vene be­cause the state at­tor­ney is an elected of­fi­cial.

“Ei­ther Scott was be­ing less than hon­est with these cit­i­zens or his view has changed sud­denly,” the court fil­ings sug­gests, tongue-in-cheek. “Scott now claims he can re­as­sign state at­tor­neys against their will when­ever he wants, and for what­ever rea­son he wants as long as do­ing so is not `with­out any rea­son what­so­ever.’”

The fight be­tween the gover­nor and pros­e­cu­tor started nearly two months ago when Ayala said her of­fice would no longer seek the death penalty, say­ing the process is costly and it drags on for the vic­tims' rel­a­tives.

Ayala an­nounced her de­ci­sion in March as her of­fice was start­ing to build a case against Markeith Loyd in the fa­tal shoot­ing of an Or­lando po­lice lieu­tenant and his preg­nant ex-girl­friend.

Scott re­sponded by re­as­sign­ing the cases to a pros­e­cu­tor in a neigh­bor­ing district.

Top Repub­li­can law­mak­ers in Tal­la­has­see also re­sponded by an­nounc­ing in their new $83 bil­lion state bud­get that $1.3 mil­lion and 21 jobs could be cut from the bud­get of Ayala's of­fice.

The Florida Pros­e­cut­ing At­tor­neys As­so­ci­a­tion has filed a friend-of-the-court brief af­firm­ing the gover­nor's au­thor­ity to re­move cases from Ayala's of­fice. The pros­e­cu­tors' as­so­ci­a­tion said Ayala was at­tempt­ing to leg­is­late from her of­fice in vi­o­la­tion of the Florida Con­sti­tu­tion.

But dozens of other le­gal schol­ars and former judges in a friend-of-the-court-brief have sided with Ayala and said Scott over­stepped his au­thor­ity.

“Ayala has hon­ored all of her statu­tory obli­ga­tions as state at­tor­ney, and will con­tinue to do so,” Mon­day's court fil­ing from Ayala said. “That ex­er­cise of pros­e­cu­to­rial judg­ment stands in marked con­trast to the ac­tions of Scott, who can­not cred­i­bly dis­pute the baldly po­lit­i­cal char­ac­ter of his ac­tions.”

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