State attorney challenges Florida governor's removal of her from case

Loyd hearing turns into battle of state attorneys

The Latest: Governor says he has power to remove prosecutor

A Florida state attorney says the governor overstepped his bounds when he removed her from a case after she pledged to not pursue the death penalty in any cases.

Ayala said at a court hearing Monday that she is researching whether she can appeal. Hours later Governor Rick Scott asked Ayala to recuse herself from the Loyd case, and when she refused, Gov. Scott signed an executive order removing Ayala and appointing State Attorney Brad King from the 5th Judicial Circuit.

Ayala, Florida's first African-American state attorney, took office January 3.

Last Thursday, Ayala announced she would not seek the death penalty for Loyd - accused of killing Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton, as well as his ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon - or any other accused murderer while she is in office.

"Based on everything that's happened, I hope the governor's decision is one that prevails", Mina said.

"We're both professionals and we are going to continue to work", he said.

The confusion over who will prosecute the case was evident Monday morning during a routine status hearing for Loyd's case.

In a legal motion filed Monday in Orange County, Ayala said she can be removed only if the governor "determines that for good and sufficient reasons", "the ends of justice would be best served" by removal.

Scott responded from Tallahassee: "I'm very comfortable that I made the right decision".

In a letter to Scott, Cortes said he believed Ayala had overstepped her prosecutorial discretion and was trying to "rewrite the law".

Judge Frederick Lauten scheduled a hearing for next week to hear arguments over who should handle the case.

Meanwhile, nearly 120 law experts from across the country sent Scott a letter urging him to reverse his decision, saying it infringed on the independence of prosecutors.

On the other hand, more than 100 lawyers, two former Florida Supreme Court justices included and three dozen current and former judges and prosecutors have gone to bat for Ayala, saying Scott has gone too far.

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