US & Canada

Florida prosecutor Aramis Ayala removed in death penalty row

Aramis Ayala Image copyright Handout
Image caption Aramis Ayala accused the governor of abusing his authority

The Florida governor has removed a prosecutor from 21 murder cases after she said she would no longer be seeking the death penalty.

Republican Governor Rick Scott said he was reassigning all Aramis Ayala's murder cases because her stance sent an "unacceptable message".

Ms Ayala, a Democrat covering Orlando, cited "legal chaos" as the reason for refusing to pursue execution in the case of a murdered policewoman.

Her decision sparked an outcry.

But there were also some who backed her, and a rally was held in her support last week in the state capital of Tallahassee.

On Monday, Mr Scott said: "State Attorney Ayala's complete refusal to consider capital punishment for the entirety of her term sends an unacceptable message that she is not interested in considering every available option in the fight for justice."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Governor Scott is trying to restart Florida's executions

Ms Ayala, an elected prosecutor in central Florida's Ninth Judicial Circuit, accused the governor of abusing his authority and compromising the independence of the judiciary.

She took office in January, to begin a four-year term.

The case that sparked the row involves a man accused of killing an Orlando police officer.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Markeith Loyd is accused of killing a policewoman

When Ms Ayala said last month she would not consider capital punishment for the accused, Markeith Loyd, the governor removed her from the case.

He handed it to State Attorney Brad King, who will now also take on the 21 other murder cases removed from Ms Ayala on Monday.

Capital punishment has been in limbo in Florida for 15 months.

A US Supreme Court ruling in January 2016 said the state's death penalty was unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges over juries.

Governor Scott attempted to restart executions last month by signing a bill that requires jury recommendations to be unanimous before a death penalty can be imposed by a judge.

Image copyright Courtesy Marilyn Shankle-Grant
Image caption Marilyn Shankle-Grant on a recent visit with her son, Paul Storey

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