TALLAHASSEE (AP/FOX 13) - Florida's governor is taking away 21 more first-degree murder cases from a prosecutor who has said she will no longer seek the death penalty.
Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order Monday reassigning cases from State Attorney Aramis Ayala to neighboring judicial circuit State Attorney Brad King. King is the state attorney for the 5th Judicial Circuit, which covers Lake, Marion, Sumter, Hernando and Citrus counties.
King told FOX 13 in a phone interview Monday that he doesn't believe the extra death penalty cases will overwhelm his office. In some cases, the prosecuting attorneys will be able to stay on, with King traveling to Orange or Osceola counties to supervise.
King also said he doesn't expect the new cases to impact ongoing homicide cases in Citrus, Hernando or Sumter counties.
"The homicide lawyer for Hernando, Citrus and Sumter will not be affected by these cases because he has a full load and there's not the same ability to transfer cases around," said King.
In contrast to Ayala, King said he doesn't have qualms with using the death penalty as a sentencing option.
"I don't have a problem with my obligation to evaluate each case on its merits on its facts to determine if the aggravating circumstances appear to outweigh the mitigating circumstances, and whether I believe legitimately that I could expect to at least argue to the jury that the death penalty be sought in those cases," said King.
Former Hillsborough County Assistant State Attorney Paul Johnson called Ayala's decision and Governor Scott's reassignment of Ayala's cases groundbreaking.
"Everything's unprecedented. We're on new ground on both sides," said Johnson.
Ayala has come under fire recently after announcing she wouldn't seek the death penalty against Markeith Loyd or any other defendant. Loyd is charged with killing an Orlando police lieutenant earlier this year, and his pregnant ex-girlfriend.
Scott took the Loyd case away from Ayala last month and reassigned it to King.
Ayala is challenging Scott's actions with the Florida Supreme Court. Her office didn't immediately respond Monday to an email from The Associated Press requesting comment.