TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that Gov. Rick Scott has the authority to remove State Attorney Aramis Ayala from prosecuting death penalty cases.
Scott said Florida is a state where criminals are fully accountable for their crimes, especially crimes against law enforcement and children.
Addressing veterans in Melbourne today, Scott said the Florida Supreme Court ruling is a victory for those whose lives have been destroyed by crime.
"It's very important we think about the families, about the victims," Scott said. "We make sure that we stand for justice, we make sure that the state attorneys are going to make sure -- State Attorney Ayala is going to make sure she fully enforces the law."
The court ruled after Ayala refused to seek the death penalty against accused cop-killer Markeith Loyd, prompting Scott to re-assign her death penalty cases to fellow State Attorney Brad King.
Now, Ayala says she'll have seven assistant state attorneys review all death penalty cases in her jurisdiction to evaluate them. She says with this review panel she expects "all first-degree murder cases that occur in my jurisdiction will remain in my office."
Scott said panel or no, Ayala has to enforce the law. "We have laws in our state. If you're elected in this state, whether you're the governor or a State Attorney, you're expected to enforce the law."
Local law enforcement also weighed-in on the ruling. Orlando Police Chief John Mina said he was "grateful for the Florida Supreme Court ruling," saying now "the heinous murders of Lt. Debra Clayton, Sade Dixon, and her unborn child, have a chance to have their killer punished to the full extent of the law."
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said "the system has worked," and that he respects "the rule of law and the wishes of victims and survivors of violent crimes."
Despite Ayala's resistance to seeking the death penalty, Scott says he won't remove her from office at this time. Ayala plans to hold a news conference Friday morning to talk more about the panel she plans to set up, and its role in helping evaluate death penalty cases.