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Florida rules against state attorney's no-death-penalty idels

In Florida, the state attorney had filed a petition challenging the governor's authority to reassign death penalty cases. The court recently ruled that the governor is within his rights to reassign the prosecution of death-penalty cases to a special prosecutor.

Why does that matter to the state attorney? She previously had a run-in with the governor when the attorney decided that she would not seek the death penalty against a man who is accused of fatally shooting his ex-girlfriend, a woman who was pregnant at the time. She also determined she would not seek the death penalty for any other case that came to her during her tenure.

As a result, the governor reassigned 29 cases to another state attorney after indicating that the woman was not following Florida law. She argued that he should not be able to take cases from her due to her being independently elected to her position. The governor's attorney claimed that the governor could reassign the cases if the woman wouldn't do her job, and a blanket refusal to seek a death penalty was just that. At best, the court claims, it shows that she does not understand Florida law.

On first-degree murder charges, the court ruled that case-specific determinations must be made. For your case, that may be good news. If the court had allowed any state attorney to paint all cases with one brush, it could have meant seeking the death penalty for any first-degree murder case instead of not doing so. Your case has its own specific evidence and situational concerns. The courts in Florida now realize that.

Source: WFTV 9, "Florida Supreme Court rules against Ayala on Scott's reassigning of death penalty cases," Field Sutton, Aug. 31, 2017

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