There’s a legal battle shaping up in Florida between the state prosecutor Aramis Ayala and Governor Rick Scott. Scott has ordered Ayala recuse herself from every case where the death penalty is at issue given that she has preemptively declared her refusal to ever pursue capital punishment in any case.
Courts will eventually determine the appropriateness of Ayala’s defiance of standard prosecutorial conduct by announcing what is effectively an anticipatory ban on all death penalties in her jurisdiction. They will also decide the legality of Scott’s gubernatorial order to appoint a special prosecutor in such cases.
But until that time, passions are likely to be aroused on both sides of the suddenly resurgent controversy over the use of capital punishment. Take, for instance, the first case in which Ayala has refused to seek the death penalty.
Markeith Loyd is charged with 11 different counts that include first-degree murder of his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon, and also in a crime that was heinously caught on video surveillance. After having allegedly killed Dixon, Loyd was approached in a Walmart parking lot by police Lt. Debra Clayton. After first attempting to run away from the officer, Loyd pulled a gun on her. In the exchange of gunfire, Clayton was wounded and knocked to the ground, which would have allowed Loyd an opportunity to escape. Instead, Loyd walked over to the injured officer, stood over the top of her, and shot her execution-style multiple times, killing her.
Put it this way: if you have the death penalty on your books, it’s to punish crimes like those Markeith Loyd is being charged with committing. If you don’t seek the death penalty for this cold-blooded, monstrous behavior, what is the point of even having a death penalty?
And that, of course, is the desire of activists like Ayala. CNN reported that in her press conference, Ayala, “argued that evidence showed the death penalty was overly expensive, slow, inhumane and did not increase public safety.” It’s clear the objective of her announcement isn’t justice; it’s the advance of a social crusade, once again attempting to impose a personal values agenda on the masses – the very offense liberals claim to oppose.
Put in blunt, personal terms what Aramis Ayala is saying with her decision: the value of Markeith Loyd’s life is of greater worth than the lives of both Debra Clayton and Sade Dixon. That’s despicable.
If Ayala wants to contribute to a larger dialogue about the efficacy of having a death penalty, so be it. But in her role as state prosecutor, she is not to concern herself with such things.
Debating the merits of these issues is the responsibility of lawmakers, not prosecutors. Ayala’s charge is to pursue justice according to what the people of the state have declared that to be through their legislature. At this time, whether she likes it or not, that includes the death penalty for killing pregnant women and cops. Refusing to enforce it when the law calls for it is dereliction of duty and requires either recusal or further measures of reprimand.
Time will tell whether the courts will agree. For justice in the case of Sade Dixon and Debra Clayton, I hope they do.