Orlando, FL - On Monday, Florida State Attorney Aramis Ayala refused to take responsibility for a crucial missed deadline in a death penalty case, and blamed Governor Rick Scott instead.
The deadline that Ayala missed involved the case of defendant Emerita Mapp, who is charged with stabbing Zackery Ganoe to death in April, according to News6. She is also charged with attempted murder for another victim who was found with stab wounds at the scene.
Ayala said, “I want to address inaccurate and misleading statements that have come from outside my office. The defendant here, Ms. Mapp, committed this murder (on) April 11, which is eight days after the governor pledged to the public that he would identify all the potential death penalty cases in Orange and Osceola counties."
Mapp's case was the first capital case for Ayala since the Florida Supreme Court ruled that Ayala did not understand Florida law in refusing to seek the death penalty.
In March, Ayala had announced that she would not seek the death penalty against cop-killer Markeith Loyd, who murdered his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon in December, 2016, and who murdered Orlando Police Lieutenant Debra Clayton on January 9, 2017.
She also said that she would not seek the death penalty in any case that came to her office, a fact she did not disclose when running for her elected office.
On April 3, Governor Scott reassigned the Markeith Loyd case and a total of 29 cases to State Attorney Scott King because Ayala wouldn’t follow Florida law.
After Governor Scott reassigned Ayala's capital cases, she then filed a lawsuit against Governor Scott, and said that she was independently elected and that Governor Scott couldn’t take cases away from her.
In her lawsuit, she also said that the Governor was “abusing his authority,” and that it was her discretion which penalty to seek in a case. Both sides presented arguments to the Florida Supreme Court in June.
In the Florida Supreme Court’s opinion, they said, “Ayala’s blanket refusal to seek the death penalty in any eligible case … does not reflect an exercise of prosecutorial discretion. It embodies, at best, a misunderstanding of Florida law.”
In September, Ayala formed a panel of seven assistant state attorneys to decide on a case-by-case basis if the death penalty should be sought.
Ayala said that the deadline to file intent to seek the death penalty in Mapp's case was never reviewed by King's office, or by any other state attorney. The law requires that intent to be filed within 45 days after a defendant's arraignment.
Mapp's arraignment date was August 23.
An email exchange refutes Ayala's version of events. In an April 20 email to Ayala, King wrote "Without such an orderly process, we will be reacting to law enforcement, or victim family, requests made to the governor. This would create the potential for speedy trial and (death penalty) filing time issues."
Ayala replied to King's email, almost a month later on May 15, and said "It remains my position that any cases within the Ninth Circuit, without an executive order, remain the sole duty and responsibility of me to prosecute."
She said that her office was prepared to litigate the issue with Mapp's case, and that the panel she created did not review Mapp's case until after the deadline.
In a statement issued on Monday, McKinley Lewis, director of communications, denied that the missed deadline was their fault. "It is outrageous State Attorney Ayala is attempting to pass the blame for her failure. Let’s be clear – State Attorney Ayala failed to meet this deadline and she alone is responsible for not fighting for justice for the victims in this case," the statement said.