Gov. Rick Scott has stripped 21 more first-degree murder cases from Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala and reassigned them to Ocala’s State Attorney Brad King to prosecute.

In 21 new executive orders decrying Ayala’s announced policy to not pursue the death penalty in any cases in her 9th Judicial Circuit, Scott declared his “grave concerns regarding her willingness to abide by and uphold the uniform application of laws in the state of Florida.”

“The ends of justice will be best served by the assignment of another state attorney,” Scott’s orders declare.

The reassignments follow Scott’s action last month stripping the case of alleged cop-killer Markeith Loyd from her and reassigning it to King. Ayala has disputed the governor’s authority to do so and has vowed to challenge that action in court.

Ayala’s office replied with this statement:

“State Attorney Ayala became aware of the Governors reassignment of 21 cases this afternoon after the Governor released it to media outlets.

“There was never official notification from his office.

“Ms. Ayala remains steadfast in her position the Governor is abusing his authority and has compromised the independence and integrity of the criminal justice system.”

King is state attorney for the neighboring Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit.

The move drew swift response from one Democrat, state Rep. Sean Shaw of Tampa, who released the following statement:

“Regardless of your opinion of the death penalty, today’s decision by Governor Scott to reassign twenty-one first degree murder cases away from State Attorney Aramis Ayala is a gross abuse of his power and authority as the state’s chief executive.

“State Attorney Ayala was duly elected by the voters of the Ninth Judicial Circuit and her right to exercise prosecutorial discretion in the interest of justice is not up for debate.”

Six of the new cases are pending in the 9th Judicial Circuit Court. The other 15 cases involved inmates who already were convicted, but whose death penalties were overturned in the Florida Supreme Court decision in the Hurst vs. Florida case. Those cases are being remanded back for new trials.

And so, Scott stripped the current cases of Darell Avant, DeMorris Andy Hunter, David Lewis Payne, Larry Perry, Juan Rosario, and Sanel Saint-Simon, for whom Ayala’s predecessors, either Jeff Ashton or Lawson Lamar, had sought the death penalty.

He also stripped the remanded cases of Dolan Darling, Steven Maurice Evans, David Sylvester Francis, Thomas Lee Gudinas, Sean S. Huggans, Sonny Ray Jeffries, Jermaine Lebron, Derrick McLean, Lionel Michael Miller, Robert Ira Peede, Theodore Rodgers Jr., Henry Perry Sireci Jr., Dusty Ray Spencer, William Melvin White, and Todd A. Zommer.

About The Author

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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