More than 100 legal experts issued a letter today expressing concern with Gov. Rick Scott's removal of state's attorney Aramis Ayala from the Markeith Loyd case. Ayala said she would not pursue the death penalty, a stance with which the governor disagreed.
The 119 signatories include two former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justices, four retired state Supreme Court Justices, more than two dozen current or former state and federal prosecutors, and approximately 90 law professors. The judges, lawyers and professors' opinion is that Scott's move infringes on the independence of prosecutors, exceeds his authority, undermines the right of Orange-Osceola voters, and sets a dangerous precedent.
"Your executive order that seeks to remove State Attorney Ayala from this position in the Loyd case – absent any showing that her decision is violative of the state or federal Constitution – compromises the prosecutorial independence upon which the criminal justice system depends," the letter states. "Second, your removal of State Attorney Ayala compromises Floridians’ right to the services of their elected leaders. Floridians in the Ninth Judicial Circuit elected State Attorney Ayala because she represents their local values and concerns."
The letter concludes, “This action sets a dangerous precedent. The governor picking and choosing how criminal cases are prosecuted, charged or handled in local matters is troubling as a matter of policy and practice. Indeed, there appears to be no precedent in Florida for this type of use of power.”
Read the full letter, with list of signatories, here.