Florida Governor Rick Scott
Florida Governor Rick Scott has removed State Prosecutor Aramis Ayala from 21 cases after she refused to consider death penalty - File photo Reuters

Aramis Ayala, a state prosecutor in central Florida's Ninth Judicial Circuit, has been removed from 21 murder cases after her refusal to consider capital punishment. Florida Governor Rick Scott made the announcement on Monday (3 April).

However, Ayala — a Democrat — accused the Republican governor of abusing his authority and compromising the independence of the judiciary.

Ayala, who covers legal cases in Orlando, took office in January and in March, sparked a controversy by refusing to consider the death penalty in a case involving the killing of an Orlando police officer. She reportedly cited "legal chaos" as her reason to not pursue execution.

While many people backed her decision and also took out a march last week in her support in the state capital of Tallahassee, governor Scott on Monday announced that "Ayala's complete refusal to consider capital punishment for the entirety of her term sends an unacceptable message that she is not interested in considering every available option in the fight for justice", the BBC reported.

After removing Ayala from the police officer's murder case in March, Scott had handed the case to State Attorney Brad King, who will now also handle the other 21 cases she has been removed from.

The status of death penalty has been in limbo in the state of Florida for over a year after the US Supreme Court ruled in January 2016 that the state's death penalty was unconstitutional as it gave more power to judges than juries.

However, to counter the Supreme Court decision and restart the death penalty in the state, Scott had signed a bill in March that would require unanimous jury recommendations to enable a judge to impose capital punishment in a case.