Prosecutor: Cuts over Florida death penalty will hurt safety

- The top prosecutor for the Orlando area says a proposal by Florida lawmakers to cut to her office's budget because she isn't seeking the death penalty anymore may compromise public safety in the nation's most visited city.

State Attorney Aramis Ayala said Wednesday that budget cuts could severely impact her office's ability to prosecute crimes.

Ayala has come under fire after she announced she wouldn't seek the death penalty in the case of Markeith Loyd or any other case.  Loyd is charged with killing an Orlando police lieutenant earlier this year, and his pregnant ex-girlfriend.

"All I can see is that it comes on the heels of it, and I'm the only line item that is being discussed, the Ninth Circuit," she said. 

House Republicans released spending recommendations on Monday that slashed $1.3 million and 21 jobs from Ayala's budget.  House Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, said the money will go to a district that is willing to take up those death penalty cases.

"The rational, at least for us behind that, is that if she's refusing to fulfill her constitutional duty and prosecute these [cases] to the fullest extent to the law, using all the tools in the law, then someone else is going to have to do what she's refusing to do -- which will be another district.  So those funds will be available to another district."

Ayala said that only one-tenth of a percent of the cases that her office handles are death penalty.  She adds that the other thousands of cases are extremely important to prosecute with a full staff.

"The 99.99 cases are non-capitol homicides, second degrees, manslaughter's, sexual battery and most importantly domestic violence," Ayala said.

Ayala believes those cases will suffer, as lawmakers try to cut positions from her office, but Rep. Plakon challenges her claim.

"She's lying," he said. "She knows that there's a big cost to prosecuting these death penalty cases. We're simply moving these funds to make them available for other districts. Additionally, she knows as well as we do, that some of those 21 positions are vacant right now."

Still, Ayala says losing prosecutors will create more crime in Orlando.

"I would say to them that I would hope they consider the economic impact and the public safety impact, because their personal feelings about me should not impact the safety or the economic integrity of this community," she said. 

Plakon said Ayala should quit her job and run for office if she wants to change the law. 

Florida Gov. Rick Scott took the Loyd case away from Ayala and reassigned it to a neighboring prosecutor.

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