• Jacksonville mother joins supporters of Orlando-area prosecutor who suspended death penalty

    By: Lorena Inclan, Action News Jax


    ORLANDO, Fla. - For more than 3 1/2 years, Darlene Farah, of Jacksonville, was in and out of the Duval County Courthouse, as the case against her daughter Shelby’s killer dragged on.

    On Friday, supporters came out to support Orlando-area State Attorney Aramis Ayala one day after she announced she would not be seeking the death penalty in any case while she is in office.

    One of the supporters who joined the news conference on the steps of the Orange County Courthouse was Darlene Farah.

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    “Speaking from experience and what my family went through after my daughter Shelby's murder in 2013, the death penalty harms surviving families,” Farah said.

    Farah spent more than three years pushing back against then-State Attorney Angela Corey, who pursued the death penalty.

    But just over two weeks ago, with a new prosecutor in office, convicted killer James Rhodes was sentenced to life in prison without parole. 

    “We needed to move on with our lives and to heal. The death penalty does not allow that to happen for victim's families,” said Farah.

    The decision by Ayala was met with backlash from the law enforcement community, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Gov. Rick Scott, who asked Ayala to recuse herself from the case against Markeith Loyd and ended up removing her from the case.

    Loyd is the man accused of killing Orlando police officer Lt. Debra Clayton and his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon.

    Friday, Dixon’s own mother came out in favor of Ayala’s decision.

    “I would love for him to die right now, but that's not going to happen, so seeking the death penalty is not an option,” Stephanie Dixon-Daniels said.

    Northeast Florida state attorneys won’t be following suit.

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    Fourth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Melissa Nelson said “Florida law provides for the death penalty in the most serious cases and we will seek it in those cases where the facts and law warrant its application.”

    State Attorney R.J. Larizza, whose circuit includes St. Johns County, said “The death penalty is the law in Florida and it’s the responsibility of state attorneys to enforce the laws of the state of Florida.”

    Soon, state attorneys across the state will need to a make a decision on what should be done with inmates on death row who were sentenced to death without a unanimous jury.

    Friday’s news conference in Orlando was held by Equal Justice USA, a group that aims to abolish the death penalty. 

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