TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in the death penalty dispute between Gov. Rick Scott and State Attorney Aramis Ayala.
Two months after the newly elected Orange-Osceola state prosecutor filed suit against Scott, the court has set oral arguments for June 28.
The dispute stems from Scott’s unilateral decision to strip Ayala of several of the state’s most high-profile first-degree murder cases after she declared, as a rule, she no longer plans to pursue the death penalty until substantive changes are made to the way the process is administered.
“State Attorney Ayala is pleased the court has decided to hear this important case and looks forward to the opportunity to show that her decision was made in the best interest of the public safety of the communities she serves and the independence of prosecutors,” Ayala’s attorney, Roy L. Austin of the Washington-based law firm of Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis, LLP, told the Florida Record.
Austin previously told the Florida Record he thinks the actions taken by the Republican governor against the state’s first black state’s attorney are politically motivated.
“When you elect someone, they should be able to do their job,” he said. “This is about his intention to destroy a particular attorney. He needs to explain why that is.”
Ayala’s suit also contends Scott’s actions are a violation of the Constitution because they effectively prohibit her from performing her duties and skirt her right to due process. Her attorneys also contend she should be entrusted with the same discretion other prosecutors are granted in deciding how best to adjudicate all the cases assigned to her.
In addition to insisting he has the legal authority to re-assign any case for any reason, Scott argues that “every citizen deserves a state attorney that's going to fully prosecute cases."
The court has already ruled that Ayala will not be reinstated in any of the 22 cases while the case is heard.
One of the most controversial cases currently making news across the state is the case of Markeith Loyd, a man recently accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend and fatally shooting an Orlando police officer.
A growing measure of Ayala’s most vocal support has come from civil rights groups and legal scholars from across the country, while Florida lawmakers have already moved to cut her office's budget by more than $1 million this year.