Despite Opposition from Black Churches, Florida Prosecutors Say State Will Continue Seeking Death Penalties

A day after a newly elected prosecutor said she would not seek the death penalty in capital cases, the remainder of Florida’s 20 state attorneys affirmed Friday they intend to pursue death sentences when appropriate.

The statement by the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association came as a number of African-American leaders declared their support for 9th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Aramis Ayala, who sparked a statewide outcry Thursday over her decision not to seek the death penalty in the case of accused cop-killer Markeith Loyd — or in any other case.

Within hours of her announcement Thursday, an outraged Gov. Rick Scott reassigned the case of Loyd — accused of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and shooting an Orlando police officer execution-style — to Brad King, an Ocala-area state attorney who is an outspoken proponent of the death penalty.

On Friday, prosecutors other than Ayala voted to “affirm the responsibility of enforcing the laws of Florida,” which they maintain is “paramount to our oath of office.”

“Throughout 19 of the 20 circuits of Florida, the death penalty will continue to be sought in those cases which qualify for its implementation,” the association said in a statement provided to The News Service of Florida after the vote. “The victims’ families of Florida deserve our dedication to implement all the laws of Florida. That is why the people of Florida have elected us.”

Ayala’s office participated in the conference call but did not vote, a source with the prosecutors said.

The vote by the association came after Orlando-area black church leaders and death-penalty opponents, including the mother of a woman allegedly slain by Loyd, offered a show of support Friday for Ayala, who ousted incumbent Jeff Ashton in a Democratic primary in August.

Speaking to reporters Thursday about her decision not to pursue the death penalty, Ayala — the first black elected state attorney in Florida — cited research showing death sentences are not a deterrent to crime, are prohibitively costly and do a disservice to victims’ families, who may wait decades without seeing those convicted of killing their loved ones finally executed.

Pursuing the death penalty “is not in the best interest of this community or the best interest of justice,” Ayala, whose circuit is made up of Orange and Osceola counties, said Thursday.

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SOURCE: Dara Kam – News Service of Florida
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