Florida State Attorney Aramis Ayala, whose office serves metropolitan Orlando, announced Thursday that she will no longer be seeking the death penalty in any cases going forward. The announcement comes on the heels of legislation recently approved by the Florida legislature meant to reinstate the death penalty after its use was put on hold by a Florida Supreme Court decision ruling an aspect of the law unconstitutional.
“I have given this issue extensive, painstaking thought and consideration,” said Ayala. “What has become abundantly clear through this process is that while I do have discretion to pursue death sentences, I have determined that doing so is not in the best interests of this community or in the best interests of justice.”
Equal Justice USA (EJUSA), a national leader in the movement to abolish the death penalty, reports that capital punishment has been a tool of systemic injustice and discrimination.
Discrimination in capital punishment was explicitly written in many states’ laws during slavery. Black people – whether slaves or not – faced the death penalty for crimes that were not even eligible for death if committed by a white person.
The Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty in 1972 because of its biased and arbitrary application. States then rewrote their death penalty laws to create more consistency in death sentencing, bringing the death penalty back in 1976. Not surprisingly, the revised laws failed to eliminate racial bias as promised.
Adora Obi Nweze, president of the Florida State Conference NAACP, praised Ayala’s decision as a step in the right direction.
“Ending use of the death penalty in Orange County is a step toward restoring a measure of trust and integrity in our criminal justice system,” she said.
Many others on twitter seemed to agree.
The Orland Police Department, however, expressed strong disagreement.
Ayala’s decision does represent a courageous stand against the status quo and acknowledges that the criminal justice system is structurally biased against people of color.
To show your support for ending the death penalty in Florida and everywhere, you can:
1) Share your support for on social media (Twitter: @DonellAyalaEsq Facebook: link here) and using #DeathPenalty
2) Leave a positive comment on her State Attorney Facebook page here to help counter all the negative responses.
3) Find more of the community response on social media via EJUSA (Facebook here and Twitter here) LatinoJustice (Facebook here and twitter here).
Jeronimo Saldaña is a member of Mijente and a volunteer on its CommSquad. He’s internet famous for making President 45’s sayings into stylish hats. Follow Jeronimo at @JeronimoSaldana