Prosecutor challenges Florida governor's right to take cases

Scott had reassigned Aramis Ayala's cases to another state attorney by executive order because Ayala had declared her refusal to pursue the death penalty.

In announcing her decision not to seek the death penalty, Ayala said capital punishment in Florida had led to "chaos, uncertainty, and turmoil".

On Thursday, Ayala's attorney, Roy Austin, requested that Attorney General Pam Bondi begin the process of asking a higher court to decide whether Scott has the authority to take the cases out of Ayala's hands.

The suit claims that Scott violated the U.S. Constitution, citing the 14th Amendment's clause guaranteeing "equal protection of the laws", by depriving Ayala of her liberty to carry out her duties and "by making false and stigmatizing claims in connection with removing her from 23 homicide cases, without providing her an opportunity to clear her name".

Yet nearly exactly a year ago, April 21, 2016, Scott's office wrote to support the prosecutorial discretion exercised by Ayala's predecessor, then-9th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Jeff Ashton, whom Ayala beat in the election last year.

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In that lawsuit, Austin, an attorney with the Washington, D.C. -based Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis law firm, requested the Supreme Court put a hold on the 23 cases reassigned to King until justices rule on the issue.

"What the governor has done here is unprecedented, illegal, and unconstitutional", he said. "If a governor can step in and replace the judgment of an elected prosecutor in Florida, then all prosecutors need to be concerned about prosecutorial discretion".

An emergency declaration allows the governor to direct immediate spending to combat problems and allows public health officials to move quickly in response to a crisis.

During last year's election Ayala received more than $1 million in support from a Washington-based political action committee with ties to liberal Hungarian-born USA billionaire George Soros. Loyd is charged with killing an Orlando police lieutenant earlier this year.

Ayala says she called the governor before her announcement, but he ended the call in less than 30 seconds, before she could explain her position.

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King is also named as defendant in Ayala's complaint, which alleges that this reassignment deprives the voters of Osceola and Orange counties of Ayala's representation in prosecuting crime.

National groups, including the NAACP, have backed Ayala, while Central Florida Republican House members have repeatedly urged Scott to remove Ayala from office, accusing the prosecutor of failing to do her job.

"As Governor Scott has continued to say, these families deserve a state attorney who will aggressively prosecute Loyd to the fullest extent of the law and justice must be served".

AP writer Ana Ceballos in Tallahassee, Florida contributed to this report. If you would like to discuss another topic, look for a relevant article.

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