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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) – An attorney for a Florida prosecutor who was stripped of murder cases by Governor Rick Scott called that action unconstitutional Wednesday during a hearing before the state’s Supreme Court.

Attorney Roy Austin said Orlando-area State Attorney Aramis Ayala, a Democrat, is an independently elected official who has the discretion to seek the death penalty or not. He said nothing in Florida law forces her to do so and he knows of no other case where a governor stripped a case from a state attorney without their consent.

“All State Attorney Ayala asks of this court is that this court return those 24 cases to her and treat her the same and with the same respect that is given to every other state attorney in Florida,” Austin said.

Florida Solicitor General Amit Angarwal said Ayala has essentially nullified the death penalty in her district and Scott had the right to reassign those cases to a neighboring state attorney.

He said never in Florida history has a state attorney set a blanket policy of refusing to seek the death penalty.

The dispute between Scott and Ayala began in March when she said she wouldn’t seek the death penalty against Markeith Loyd in the fatal shooting of an Orlando police lieutenant and his pregnant ex-girlfriend. She also said she wouldn’t seek capital punishment in any other murder case.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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