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Constitutional Professor: Scott's Retaliation Goes Too Far

Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala speaks with reporters about her decision to not pursue the death penalty during her administration.
Renata Sago

Lawyers, judges and professors are pushing back against Governor Rick Scott’s decision to reassign a death penalty case. The move comes after the Orlando State Attorney announced she won’t pursue capital punishment.

Orlando State Attorney Aramis Ayala is drawing harsh criticism for her decision. And the case of accused cop-killer Markeith Loyd hangs in the balance. State law empowers the governor to remove prosecutors or reassign their duties. Generally an ethical issue would spur this, such as a conflict of interest. But constitutional law professor Louis Virelli of Stetson University argues the governor can’t challenge a prosecutor’s independence.

“But in my view it’s a very difficult reading of that statute to say, every time you disagree with an elected official, a constitutionally empowered elected official, you can replace them,” Virelli said.

Virelli says Ayala's decision is hers to make.

“And when you have a governor who has statewide responsibilities effectively making prosecution decisions for local communities, that draws into question the value of the electoral process in the first place,” Virelli said.

Ayala is challenging the governor in court, in order to retake control of the case.