The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday upheld Gov. Rick Scott's authority to transfer potential capital-punishment cases away from Orlando-area State Attorney Aramis Ayala because of her controversial refusal to seek the death penalty.
Scott in recent months has transferred cases from Ayala's office to Ocala-area State Attorney Brad King. Ayala, who was elected last year as state attorney in the 9th Judicial Circuit, argued that Scott overstepped his authority, but the Supreme Court, in a 5-2 decision, backed the governor.
“The governor's orders do not direct King to seek the death penalty in any of the reassigned cases, and King has sworn that the governor has not attempted to interfere with his determination as to whether to pursue the death penalty in any case,” said the majority opinion, written by Justice Alan Lawson.
“Rather, consistent with the governor's constitutional duty, effectuated pursuant to his statutory assignment authority, the executive orders ensure the faithful execution of Florida law by guaranteeing that the death penalty --- while never mandatory --- remains an option in the death-penalty eligible cases in the Ninth Circuit, but leaving it up to King, as the assigned state attorney, to determine whether to seek the death penalty on a case-by-case basis.”