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State Attorney: No Death Penalty For Markeith Loyd, Future Cases

Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala speaks with reporters about her decision to not pursue the death penalty during her administration./ Photo: File, WMFE
Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala speaks with reporters about her decision to not pursue the death penalty during her administration./ Photo: File, WMFE

Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala will not seek the death penalty in the case of Markeith Loyd, accused of killing a police officer and his pregnant ex-girlfriend.

Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton was shot and killed while trying to apprehend Loyd, a suspect in the murder of Sade Dixon. Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala said her office will not pursue the death penalty in the case, or any case, during her tenure as State Attorney of the Ninth Judicial Circuit.

Gov. Rick Scott asked Ayala to recuse herself from the case. Ayala refused. Scott has since reassigned the case to Brad King, State Attorney for the Fifth Judicial Circuit covering Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties.

"These families deserve a state attorney who will aggressively prosecute Markeith Loyd to the fullest extent of the law and justice must be served,” Scott said in an e-mailed statement.

Ayala said she will comply with the executive order filed by Scott and will "fully cooperate to ensure the successful prosecution of Markeith Loyd."

Court challenges left Florida’s death penalty law on hold for much of last year. But earlier this week, Scott signed a law that required jurors to unanimously recommend a death sentence, allowing prosecutors to seek that penalty once again.

At a press conference in front of the Orange County Courthouse, Ayala said she reviewed the death sentence statues and made her decision after "thought and painstaking consideration."

"While I currently do have discretion to pursue death sentences, I have determined that doing so is not in the best interest of this community or the best interest of justice," said Ayala. "Let me be very clear, however. I will continue to hold people who do harm to this community accountable for their actions. I will do so in a way that is sensible, fair and just."

The death penalty doesn't do justice to families who are dragged through years of appeals, Ayala said, adding that evidence shows the cost of keeping an inmate on death row is far more expensive that a life sentence.

Orlando Police Chief John Mina tweeted he was upset with the State Attorney’s decision to not seek the death penalty in Loyd's case. "The heinous crimes that he committed in our community are the very reason we have the death penalty as an option under the law."

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said during a Thursday press conference that law enforcement officers across the state were outraged by the decision.

Racial justice organizations like Color of Change PAC are applauding Ayala's decision. "[It] sets a powerful example of reform that others must heed. Every day more and more Americans of all races are waking up to realize the warped incentives in our criminal justice system, and in 2016 many went to the polls to vote out prosecutors working from a failed and inhumane playbook," said Rashad Robinson, a spokesperson for Color of Change PAC.

He is calling on prosecutors across the country to take notice. "The death penalty has always been applied disproportionately to Black people, from the era of slavery to the present day, where it is overlaid on an unequal system of mass incarceration. And today, this discriminatory system took a big hit."


Brendan Byrne is Central Florida Public Media's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing the organization's internship program. Byrne also hosts Central Florida Public Media's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration, and the weekly news roundup podcast "The Wrap."