Gov. Rick Scott has reassigned the cases of two women accused of abusing a three-year-old Orange County boy to death, transferring their cases from Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala to Ocala’s State Attorney Brad King.
The transfers are like more than 20 others the governor has reassigned from Ayala to King since March, when Ayala, the elected state attorney for Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit, said she would not pursue the death penalty in any murder cases in her district under Florida’s current laws.
This time the transferred cases involve an incident that occurred earlier this year, in which Callene M. Barton and Lakesha C. Lewis were arrested for allegedly beating the pre-school son of their other roommate with a window blind rod, and then throwing him down a flight of stairs. The boy died.
Scott’s authority to reassign such cases, and Ayala’s authority to refuse to pursue death penalty prosecutions, are in the hands of the Florida Supreme Court. The two took to the Supreme Court to battle out what outside interests have called a major case defining the powers of elected state attorneys and governors. The two made their oral arguments last week. A decision could come any day.
The case and the stakes involved have divided legal and lawmaking authorities, not just in Florida but nationally.
Lewis, 28, was booked earlier this month on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse.
Barton, 58, was booked earlier this month on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, and tampering with a witness.