Judge sides with governor in prosecutor removal

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A judge says Florida's governor can remove a prosecutor from a death penalty-eligible case and has denied a request to delay the proceedings.

Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala said earlier this month that she wouldn't seek the death penalty for a man charged in the December slayings of his ex-girlfriend and the January killing of a police officer. After her announcement, Republican Gov. Rick Scott removed her from the case.  The governor reassigned the case to State Attorney Brad King who works in a neighboring district.  

Ayala, a Democrat, says the governor overstepped his authority, and she is fighting to keep the case.

"I asked the governor, did he have any questions, would he like to understand my reasoning. He said, 'No. I just want to know are you recusing yourself?'" Ayala told Circuit Judge Frederick Lauten. "The conversation was less that 25 second," she added. 

She asked for a two-week delay while she prepares an argument for the Florida Supreme Court.  

The case involves Markeith Loyd, who is accused of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and an Orlando police lieutenant.  With his life potentially hanging in the balance, Loyd had an opportunity to speak during Tuesday's hearing.

"This move is prejudice, vindictive and racially motivated by Governor Scott," he said. "The governor has been on TV numerous times saying I should face the death penalty, and so has [Orlando Police Chief] John Mina."

But Judge Lauten denied Ayala's request, saying "I find that Mr. king now possess the authority of the State of Florida to prosecute the is matter."

Ayala says there is no evidence that shows the death penalty improves public safety. She says it's costly and drags on for years for the victims' families.  

RELATED: Florida legislators propose cutting Ayala's budget

King says he will decide within the week whether he will pursue the death penalty against Loyd.  

Another hearing in the case is scheduled for Monday.