Mixed reactions over state attorney decision not to seek death penalty

By Anthony Leone and John W. Davis, Team Coverage
Last Updated: Thursday, March 16, 2017, 5:57 PM EDT

Emotions were running high after newly elected State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced Thursday that her office would not seek the death penalty in cases, including Markeith Loyd.

"Under my administration, I will not be seeking the death penalty in cases handled by my office," Ayala, a Democrat, said Thursday morning at a news conference in front of the Orange County Courthouse.

Ayala's announcement has created a political firestorm, with Republican Gov. Rick Scott removing her from the Loyd case after calling for her recusal.

Scott said he thinks Lt. Debra Clayton's killing warranted the death penalty against Loyd, who is accused of shooting her execution-style in January, which led to a nine-day manhunt. Loyd is also accused in the slaying of his ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon, and their unborn child in December.

Orlando-area attorney Mark NeJame said Ayala had every right to make this decision.

"She's standing up for and doing a most courageous act, and that is doing what she believes legally she should be doing and morally that she should be doing," NeJame said.

"I think that when we find public servants who do that, we should applaud them, rather than denigrate them," he added.

"I was certainly shocked," Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said. "I don't think it speaks anything about how this community values our police officers."

State Attorney General Pam Bondi also chimed in, saying that Ayala's decision "sends a dangerous message to residents and visitors of the greater Orlando area — furthermore, it is a blatant neglect of duty and a shameful failure to follow the law as a constitutionally elected officer.”

Outside of politics, people have also voiced their opinions on the matter on social media, taking to Ayala's campaign Facebook page when she was running for state attorney in 2016. Earlier in the day, people were able to read viewer comments, but that feature appears to have been disabled.

Here are a few screen captures of some of the comments on the page, before the feature was disabled:

There were a few who agreed with Ayala's stance:

On News 13's Facebook page, many people also shared their feelings, and although most condemned Ayala's decisions, some supported her.