More than 100 justices, judges, law professors express support for Aramis Ayala

Aramis Ayala

More than 100 current or former judges, prosecutors, law professors and other legal scholars — including two former Florida Supreme Court chief justices — have signed a letter to Gov. Rick Scott expressing their support Orlando State Attorney Aramis Ayala‘s right to decide not to pursue death penalty cases and urging the governor to back off.

The signatories include former chief justices of the Florida Supreme Court Harry Lee Anstead and Gerald Kogan joined with three dozen current or former judges and prosecutors and approximately 90 law professors.

“We are deeply troubled by your effort to relieve State Attorney Aramis D. Ayala of her constitutional and statutory duties in the Markeith Loyd case. We believe that this effort to remove State Attorney Ayala infringes on the vitally important independence of prosecutors, exceeds your authority, undermines the right of residents in Orange and Osceola counties to the services of their elected leaders, and sets a dangerous precedent,” the letter declares.

On Thursday Ayala, of Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit, announced her office would not pursue death penalty charges, and that would start with the case of Loyd, charged in the murders of his pregnant former girlfriend Sade Dixon and Orlando Police Master Sergeant Debra Clayton. The political fallout that followed included Scott using an executive order to strip the Loyd case from Ayala and give it to neighboring State Attorney Brad King of Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit.

Though she initially announced she would cooperate, Ayala herself is now expressing that she thinks the governor overstepped his bounds and that she may seek a way to stay on the case. At a pre-trial hearing for Loyd on Monday, Ayala attended as a lawyer, got up and declared, “I need to be clear: I think the governor overstepped his bounds,” according to the Orlando Sentinel. Although, she is not yet sure whether she’ll step aside, she said, she will not interfere with King, according to The Sentinel.

The judges, prosecutors and law professors agreed with her in their letter to Scott.

“State Attorney Ayala, as the duly elected, constitutional office holder of State Attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit, is so solely empowered to make prosecutorial decisions for her circuit,” the letter states. “Your executive order that seeks to remove State Attorney Ayala from this position in the Loyd case — absent any showing that her decision is violative of the state or federal Constitution — compromises the prosecutorial independence upon which the criminal justice system depends.”

“We believe this action sets a dangerous precedent,” the letter continues. The governor picking and choosing how criminal cases are prosecuted, charged or handled in local matters is troubling as a matter of policy and practice. Indeed, there appears to be no precedent in Flordia for this type of use of power … We urge you to reverse your decision to remove State Attorney Ayala from the Loyd prosecution.”

Florida State University President Emeritus Sandy D’Alemberte; Gill Garcetti, former Los Angeles County district attorney; William Jorden, president of the National Black Prosecutors Association; and former U.S. Attorney Neal Sonnett of the Southern District of Florida; also were among the signatories.

So were law professors from the Barry University School of Law and the Florida A&M University in Orlando; the University of Miami School of Law; University of Florida Levine College of Law; the Florida International University College of Law; and from law schools at Duke, Yale, UCLA, Stanford, Northwestern, University of North Carolina, University of Michigan, Georgetown, Hofstra, Harvard, University of Texas, New York University, Vanderbilt, University of California at Berkeley, and other universities.

Scott Powers

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 [email protected].


  • Dan

    March 20, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    Sounds like a good like of Law Professors and judges who should pick up their pink slips.

  • Name*

    March 28, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    She does NOT have a right to make her own decisions on a matter such as this when she did not campaign on that platform. What she is doing is called deceit and is only practiced by those so dishonest they should not be allowed to represent the public.

  • Hayward

    March 30, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    It sounds like her mistake was providing her candid view regarding death penalties. As AG her and her office by law can decide which penalties to pursue. That’s her job. She could have easily proceeded to prosecute without pursuing the death penalty based on her legal assessment. I appreciate having someone in this office who is forthright. And she seems to be well with in her legal right to do what she is doing. There is NO “deceit” here.

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704