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Thursday, March 4, 2021

Ayala creates death penalty review panel

ORLANDO — State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced on Friday the creation of a seven-member review panel made up of assistant state attorneys who will look at death penalty eligible cases and recommend to her which ones should be pursued with the death penalty in mind.

Ayala said she will stay out of the process and not have any say in the decisions reached by the panel.

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“I have vested my authority into the review panel and I have no intention of usurping that authority,” Ayala said in a press conference at the Orange County Courthouse.

Their recommendation must, however, be unanimous for her to direct the assistant state attorney to actually pursue the death penalty.  She noted that the buck stops with her and that she will have the final decision after receiving the panel’s recommendation.

The power struggle between Ayala and the governor is apparently not over.

Scott’s spokesperson, John Tupps, told The News Service of Florida that for now, the governor does not plan to reinstate Ayala on any of the cases he reassigned.

“Until State Attorney Ayala fully recants her statement that she will not seek the death penalty in any case, and the Governor is convinced that crime victims will be protected and justice will be served, our office does not plan to return any of the 29 cases that are being prosecuted by State Attorney Brad King.”

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“State Attorney Ayala needs to make it clear that her office will seek the death penalty as outlined in Florida law, when appropriate. State Attorney Ayala’s statement today leaves too much room for interpretation.”

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Ayala said she will not seek return of the cases already reassigned, but that with her new review panel, she intends to make sure no additional capital cases leave her office.

Had she not made her discretion an issue with her March public announcement, Ayala could have simply exercised it however she saw fit on a case-by-case basis without the oversight now being exercised by the governor.

Tupps said the governor will be keeping an eye on Ayala’s office, and added: “the governor must be convinced that the death penalty will be sought as outlined in Florida law, when appropriate.”

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