TwitterFacebookPinterestGoogle+
  • ORLANDO (FNN NEWS) - U.S. Representatives Val Demings (center) and Darren Soto (left), with U.S. Senator Bill Nelson on hand, held an informative disaster assistance workshop at Valencia College's west campus Monday. Photo: Willie David/Florida National News.
    VIDEO | ORLANDO (FNN NEWS) - U.S. Representatives Val Demings (center) and Darren Soto (left), with U.S. Senator Bill Nelson on hand, held an informative disaster assistance workshop at Valencia College's west campus Monday. Photo: Willie David/Florida National News.

Florida Prosecutor’s Anti-Death Penalty Stand Surprises Many

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Florida prosecutor who thrust herself into the forefront of the anti-death penalty movement is a political novice who was elected just seven months ago.

Aramis Ayala, a Democrat and former public defender and assistant state attorney, surprised many of her own supporters when she announced this week that her office would no longer seek capital punishment in a state that has one of the largest death rows. In response, the state’s Republican governor promptly transferred a potential death penalty case – the killing of a police officer and a pregnant woman earlier this year – to another Florida prosecutor.

“I understand this is a controversial issue, but what isn’t controversial is the evidence that led me to my decision,” said Ayala, the first black state attorney elected in Florida.

She said there is no evidence that shows the death penalty improves public safety for citizens or law enforcement, and it’s costly and drags on for years for the victims’ families.

Advocates seeking to abolish the death penalty said Ayala sent a powerful message. Her decision reflects decreasing support for capital punishment in the U.S., said Karen Clifton, executive director of the Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Use of the Death Penalty.

“There are some prosecutors who in practice are following her lead. They just haven’t spoken out like she has,” Clifton said. “It would be wonderful if they spoke out and we could have a louder voice.”

Ayala spent the first decade or so of her career as an assistant state attorney and public defender. She was a prosecutor in the state attorney’s office for Orange and Osceola counties for about two years before she decided to seek the top job. The county is home to Walt Disney World and other tourist attractions and has grown more liberal over the past two decades.

Ayala was a political newcomer last year when she took on her former boss, then-State Attorney Jeff Ashton, who had been one of the prosecutors in the Casey Anthony case. Anthony was acquitted of murder in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee.

Ayala didn’t run on an anti-death penalty platform when she campaigned, since at the time Florida’s death penalty law was in question after the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional. A new death penalty bill was signed into law this week.

She instead emphasized during her campaign that she would engage with average citizens if elected. She acknowledged that her husband had served time in prison for drug conspiracy and counterfeiting checks years ago.

Even some of Ayala’s supporters said Friday they were taken aback by her decision.

Lawson Lamar, a former state attorney and sheriff, who backed her run for office, said: “Anyone who raises their hand and takes the oath to be state attorney must be able to go with the death penalty even if they feel it’s distasteful.”

Ayala’s campaign was helped by a Washington-based political action committee with ties to liberal Hungarian-born U.S. billionaire George Soros. The committee gave Ayala’s campaign almost $1 million, as well as millions of dollars to candidates in local races around the nation.

When asked if the donations influenced her decision, she said it did not.

Florida has 381 inmates on death and shows no sign of slowing down future prosecutions. The other state attorneys in Florida issued a statement Friday saying they would continue to seek the death penalty.

Rafael Zaldivar, whose son was murdered in Orlando in 2012, said Ayala’s decision is part of a political agenda and has no place in the state attorney’s office. He demanded her resignation.

“She is an activist. She isn’t a prosecutor. She has an agenda,” said Zaldivar, whose son’s killer was sentenced to death in 2015. Questions over Florida’s death penalty law have cast doubt over the sentence. His case is currently on appeal.

After Ayala announced her decision, Gov. Rick Scott transferred the case of Markeith Loyd from her authority to another state attorney in a neighboring district. Loyd is charged in the killing of police Lt. Debra Clayton, as well as Sade Dixon, who was Loyd’s pregnant ex-girlfriend.

Dixon’s mother said she supported Ayala’s decision, saying the death penalty would drag out the process for her family.

“I would love for him to die right now, but that isn’t going to happen,” Stephanie Dixon-Daniels said at a news conference outside the Orange County Courthouse.

Ayala’s decision could play into any future political aspirations. In California, then-District Attorney Kamala Harris faced similar circumstances a dozen years ago when she decided not to pursue the death penalty against a man accused of killing a San Francisco police officer. Harris went on to become the state’s attorney general and a U.S. senator.

Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter: http://twitter.com/mikeschneiderap. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/Mike-Schneider

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

POLITICS & POWER

It's Official: Eric Rollings Running For Orange County Commissioner In…

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) - Orange Soil & Water Conservation Chair Eric Rollings officially kicked…

Orange County Property Appraiser Rick Singh Certifies Final 2017 Tax…

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) – Source: Office of the OCPA // Each year Orange County…

State Senator Linda Stewart and State Representative Bruce Antone Propose…

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) - State Senator Linda Stewart (D-Orlando) and State Representative Bruce Antone (D-Orlando) held…

U.S. NEWS

Trump’s Jibe Deepens Feud with Tillerson; He was Joking?

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump challenged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to “compare IQ tests,” delivering a sharp-edged ribbing that threw a bright spotlight on his seemingly shaky relationship with his top diplomat. The White House insisted the president was only joking. Trump issued the challenge in an interview with…

AT&T Deploying Mobile Cell Sites to Help Those Impacted by…

SAN FRANCISCO, (FNN NEWS) / By AT&T / -- To help customers and emergency responders stay connected, our Network Disaster Recovery (NDR) team is deploying numerous mobile cell sites, or Cells on Light Trucks (COLTs) and equipment to areas impacted by ongoing wildfires. AT&T Sat COLT in Napa, CA We have deployed Sat COLTs to Santa…

International Pop Icon P!NK Announces Beautiful Trauma World Tour 2018

NEW YORK, (FNN NEWS) / By Live Nation Entertainment / -- Known for her incredible and entertaining live show, international pop icon P!NK announces her Beautiful Trauma World Tour 2018 today. The 40-date North American arena tour produced by Live Nation will start in Phoenix, AZ on March 1st and culminate in Los Angeles, CA at The Forum on June 2nd. American Express®…

ORLANDO / CENTRAL FLORIDA NEWS

It's Official: Eric Rollings Running For Orange County Commissioner In…

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) - Orange Soil & Water Conservation Chair Eric Rollings officially kicked off his candidacy for Orange County Commissioner, District 3 outside of the Orange County Government Administration Building Thursday morning. Pete Clarke is the current Commissioner representing Orange County District 3. Clarke recently filed paperwork to run for Orange County Mayor. Florida State Senator…

Orange County Property Appraiser Rick Singh Certifies Final 2017 Tax…

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) – Source: Office of the OCPA // Each year Orange County Property Appraiser Rick Singh is responsible for fairly and equitably assessing over 453,000 real estate parcels and almost 61,000 tangible personal property accounts while applying all applicable exemptions and classifications. On October 16, 2017, Rick Singh certified and delivered the 2017 tax roll, valued at…

State Senator Linda Stewart and State Representative Bruce Antone Propose…

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) - State Senator Linda Stewart (D-Orlando) and State Representative Bruce Antone (D-Orlando) held a press conference Monday to unveil the "Child Safety Alarm Act"  (SB 486). Senate Bill 486 is also co-sponsored by State Senators Randolph Bracy (D-Orlando) and Victor Torres, Jr., (D-Orlando) who also spoke about the proposed legislation at the press conference. The Child Safety Alarm Act requires vehicles used…

MIAMI / SOUTH FLORIDA NEWS

Hip Hop Legend Queen Latifah to Receive Icon Award at…

MIAMI, Fla. (FNN NEWS) - Actor, singer, producer and hip hop legend Queen Latifah will receive the Icon Award at the 4th Annual Revolt Music Conference in October. “Queen Latifah is a rare talent and one of the most successful artists of all time, flourishing as a rap artist, movie star, talk show host and more,”…

Unparalleled Lineup Of Industry Power Players Revealed For 2017 REVOLT…

NEW YORK, (FNN NEWS) // Source: REVOLT TV // -- REVOLT, the multi-platform network from Sean Combs, will once again return to Miami Beach for the fourth annual REVOLT Music Conference (RMC) on October 12-15, 2017 at the Eden Roc Miami Beach Resort. The first round of featured keynote speakers, Q&A participants, and panelists has been revealed for the four-day, action-packed experience. Veteran record executive, CEO and Co-Founder…

SPORTS NEWS

ENTERTAINMENT NEWS

LUXURY LIFESTYLE NEWS

2016 TONY AWARDS

2016 CANNES FILM FEST

WRITERS GUILD AWARDS

2016 GOLDEN TRAILER

2016 ESSENCE FEST

MISS AMERICA 2015

AMERICAN BLACK FILM FEST

MISS UNIVERSE 2015

2016 JAZZ IN THE GARDENS

2016 DAYTONA 500