ORLANDO, Fla. – The Florida governor removes two more cop-killer cases from a prosecutor who refuses to seek the death penalty.
In an executive order issued Saturday evening, Gov. Rick Scott reassigned the prosecution of the man accused of shooting and killing two Kissimmee police officers from State Attorney Aramis Ayala.
Scott said he removed Ayala from the prosecution of Everett Glenn Miller, 45, because she refuses to seek the death penalty in any case prosecuted by her office, reported WFTV Channel 9 news.
Baxter died of his injuries at the scene. Howard succumbed to his injuries at Osceola Regional Medical Center the following day.
Kissimmee police identified Miller as the suspect in the fatal shooting of the two police officers.
In the days prior to the shooting, Miller posted several articles on Facebook related to the Ku Klux Klan and Neo Nazi demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, reported clickorlando.com.
On the morning the police officers were killed, Miller posted a meme of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that included the caption, “When I said march I didn’t mean forever (expletive). Shoot back.”
“You can only poke a tie (sic) up dog so long,” Miller wrote above the photo. “Once that chain breaks it’s over. Wake up America before it’s too late.”
Later that day, just hours before Miller would be accused of murdering Baxter and Howard, he posted an article on Facebook suggesting white supremacists had infiltrated police departments.
“F*** you, rich bastards,” Miller wrote above photos of police officers allegedly wearing KKK hoods.
Miller’s Facebook page disappeared from the social media website Saturday night. It is unclear whether it was removed by Facebook employees or deleted by an acquaintance of Miller.
As with the other potential capital cases from which the governor removed Ayala, Scott reassigned the case to State Attorney Brad King.
This marks the 25th case the governor has removed Ayala from as part of an ongoing feud between the two after Ayala said in March that she would not consider the death penalty in any prosecution by her office.
The governor’s office issued the following release regarding the executive order:
Today, Governor Rick Scott issued Executive Order 17-222 reassigning the case of Everette Glenn Miller from State Attorney Aramis Ayala to State Attorney Brad King. Everette Glenn Miller is accused of shooting and killing two Kissimmee police officers – Officer Matthew Baxter and Sgt. Richard “Sam” Howard. In March, State Attorney Ayala unilaterally decided to not seek the death penalty in any case prosecuted by her office. As Governor, Governor Scott has sole authority in Florida to reassign cases when he determines that the reassignment will serve in the interest of justice.
Governor Rick Scott said, “Last night’s violence against our law enforcement community is reprehensible and has no place in our state. In Florida, we have zero tolerance for violence and those who attack our law enforcement. Today, I am using my executive authority to reassign this case to State Attorney Brad King to ensure the victims of last night’s attack and their families receive the justice they deserve.”
Attorney General Pam Bondi said, “Two Florida police officers were brutally murdered and the victims’ families deserve a prosecutor who is willing to consider all sentences, including the death penalty – that is why the Governor and I agree the investigation and prosecution of this case must be reassigned.
When asked for comment about being reassigned, Ayala told Channel 9 that her condolences are with the families of the fallen officers.
“My reaction right now is strictly to the victims. That’s it and we’ll deal with the rest of it as it comes but again I focus and I think that community should be focused on the victims,” said Ayala.
Scott’s power to strip Ayala of murder cases because she won’t seek the death penalty was tested before the state Supreme Court in June.
Ayala’s lawyer asked the court to block Scott’s move.
Justices heard arguments in the dispute that began in March when it was learned that Ayala would not seek the death penalty of another accused cop-killer, Markeith Loyd. He is charged with the fatal shooting of Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton.
Scott said he reassigned the cases to State Attorney Brad King because Ayala wasn’t following Florida law. Ayala argues that Scott doesn’t have the right to take the cases from her because she’s independently elected.
Ayala sued Scott, claiming that he abused his authority by reassigning the cases.
“Your honor, respectfully, there is nothing in Florida law that requires State Attorney Ayala to seek the death penalty,” Roy Austin, Ayala’s attorney, said during the hearing.
“This is not a question about seeking the death penalty,” Justice R. Fred Lewis said. “This is a question of following the statute and applying the death penalty. You may end up with a death penalty and others not.”
Austin said that Ayala had the authority to prosecute cases according to her discretion.
However, discretion indicates multiple options. In Ayala’s judgment, she has removed the death penalty as an option even though the law allows it.
Austin said a win for Scott would be unprecedented because the state’s highest office would have unfettered abilities to meddle with an independent justice system.
The court will have to balance a desire that justice for murder suspects is consistent statewide with the need of ensuring the governor has not overstepped his authority.
(Photo: Screenshot Channel 9 News)