121 criminal justice leaders file brief in support of ousted Florida prosecutor

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A group of 121 elected prosecutors, former judges and law enforcement officials filed a brief with the Florida Supreme Court on Monday in support of District Attorney Monique Worrell, who was suspended by Gov. Ron DeSantis last month.

The duly elected district attorney for Orange and Osceola counties was removed from office in August. In a news conference, DeSantis said he suspended her for “neglecting her duty to diligently prosecute crimes within her jurisdiction.”

DeSantis’ office began investigating Worrell earlier this year after 19-year-old Keith Moses was charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of news reporter Dylan Lyons, Nathacha Augustin and 9-year-old T’yonna Major. The girl’s mother and news photographer Jesse Walden were also shot. The governor’s office alleged that Worrell failed to hold Moses accountable for previous crimes.

Worrell filed a petition challenging her suspension with the Florida Supreme Court earlier this month, claiming DeSantis had failed to prove the negligence or incompetence she was accused of.

“The order does not allege a single instance in which Ms. Worrell’s exercise of prosecutorial discretion violated Florida law,” the petition states. “To the extent that the Governor disagrees with the manner in which Ms. Worrell is lawfully exercising her prosecutorial discretion, such disagreement shall not constitute a basis for suspension from elected office.”

A group of 121 criminal justice leaders filed an amicus brief in support of Worrell on Monday, arguing that DeSantis violated the state constitution and failed to identify conduct that meets the legal grounds for suspension. They claimed the order was based “solely on vaguely defined policy disagreements” and that the question should be left to voters in 2024.

The group argues that if the Supreme Court upholds Worrell’s suspension and refuses to limit the governor’s power to remove elected officials, “the floodgates will open to allow for a removal that goes far beyond what the Constitution (Florida) ever provided for.” All guardrails for the future will disappear…. Future elected leaders in Florida will be at the whim of the governor – not the will of the people.”

This wasn’t the first time DeSantis fired a prosecutor. Last year, he suspended District Attorney Andrew Warren, elected twice by Hillsborough County voters, after he promised not to pursue criminal charges against abortion or gender reassignment seekers or providers.

DeSantis also accused him of negligence because of Warren’s policy of not charging suspects for certain minor crimes. A federal judge ruled that DeSantis violated the Florida Constitution by suspending Warren, but said the court did not have the authority to reinstate him.

Warren called the day Worrell was suspended “a dark day for democracy in the Sunshine State.” Immediately after her suspension, Worrell vowed to seek re-election next year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Laura Coffey

Laura Coffey is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Laura Coffey joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: LauraCoffey@worldtimetodays.com.

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