Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Central Florida lawmaker wants Rick Scott to remove Aramis Ayala from a botched murder-for-hire case

Posted By on Wed, Jan 17, 2018 at 5:30 PM

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A Central Florida lawmaker is asking Gov. Rick Scott to remove Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala from a botched murder-for-hire case.

In a letter to Scott, state Rep. Bob Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs, said he wants the governor to reassign the case of Janice Zengotita-Torres to a state attorney "willing to pursue the death penalty." The Orlando Sentinel reports Zengotita-Torres was allegedly kidnapped by Alexis Ramos and Glorianmarie Quinones Montes by mistake – another woman, Ishnar Marie Lopez, had hired them to kill the partner of the man she loved. Osceola County investigators say even after Ramos and Quinones Montes realized they kidnapped the wrong person, they decided to kill Zengotita-Torres anyway.

After Ayala refused to seek the death penalty last year, Scott reassigned more than two dozen first-degree murder cases away from her office to Ocala-based State Attorney Brad King. Ayala argued before the Florida Supreme Court that Scott didn't have the authority to remove her, but lost her case. To comply with the court's decision, Ayala announced the creation of a seven-member panel of prosecutors who would determine what cases deserved the death penalty. Ayala's office began pursing capital punishment for cases – but the feud between the state attorney and governor was reignited after he accused Ayala of missing a crucial deadline for the death penalty in the case of accused killer Emerita Mapp. Ayala placed the blame back on Scott's office for failing to review her cases thoroughly.

Cortes, who has frequently called on the governor to remove Ayala from office, said the state attorney has "proven her lack of objectivity in seeking appropriate justice in capital cases."

"All murders are tragedies, but this one seems even more so because it involves the cold-blooded killing of a victim of mistaken identity," Cortes said in a statement. "While we pray for Ms. Zengotita-Torres’s family, we must also pursue justice for her and make it crystal clear that the safety of Florida’s residents and visitors is our highest priority."

In a statement, Ayala's office said Cortes "may not be aware" that the issue was resolved.

"State Attorney Ayala will continue to seek justice, fight for victims and follow the law," the statement says.

Orlando Weekly reached out to Scott's office for a comment but did not receive an immediate response.

UPDATE: In a statement, a spokesperson for Scott's office says the governor's staff is reviewing Cortes' request to remove Ayala from the case.

"Governor Scott has made it clear that Florida has absolutely zero tolerance for crime, and he will continue to stand with victims and their families," says spokesperson Lauren Schenone.

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