Coast to coast, the death penalty is still a controversial issue

Written by Xavier Alatorre, Staff Writer

Florida Governor Rick Scott removed State Attorney Aramis Ayala from the case of an accused cop killer after she announced she would not seek the death penalty in this case or any other case thereafter. Scott has assigned Lake County State Attorney Brad King to the case.

“Earlier today, I called on State Attorney Ayala to immediately recuse herself from this case,” said Scott in a statement. “She informed me this afternoon that she refuses to do that. She has made it clear that she will not fight for justice, and that is why I am using my executive authority to immediately reassign the case.”

Under Florida law, the governor can appoint a different prosecutor if he or she finds a “good or sufficient reason” to remove the original prosecutor.

Ayala gave her justification for not seeking the death penalty. “I have determined that doing so is not in the best interest of the community or the best interest of justice,” she said.

Across the nation, the death penalty is a controversial issue.

During the November election, California voted yes on Proposition 66 which speeds up executions. Californians also voted against abolishing the death penalty.

Prop 66 accelerates the death penalty process by allowing trial courts to hear petitions to death penalty convictions. It also limits the number of successive appeals and opens the pool of lawyers that can take on death penalty cases. It also places a five-year deadline for appeals to be heard. Currently, it can take up to 25 years for an inmate on death row to exhaust all appeals.

Though the ballot measure was successful, a month after the November election, the California Supreme Court put a hold on the implementation of the measure as it considers a lawsuit challenging it.

“The challenge is based on four legal arguments, including that it violates the jurisdiction of courts by having Superior Court judges handle secondary appeals over issues such as newly discovered evidence, incompetent counsel or misconduct by jurors or prosecutors,” said attorney Christina Von der Ahe Rayburn, who filed the case.

Currently, there are 750 inmates in California that are on death row. There has not been an execution in the state in over a decade.