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Crime Florida state attorney will seek death penalty for man accused of killing neighbor, bludgeoning another

16:22  07 december  2017
16:22  07 december  2017 Source:   msn.com

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Florida state attorney Aramis Ayala's death-penalty review panel recommended capital punishment Jimmy Merritt. © Orange County Jail Florida state attorney Aramis Ayala's death-penalty review panel recommended capital punishment Jimmy Merritt. Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala will pursue the death penalty against an Orlando, Florida man accused of killing his neighbor and bludgeoning another man to death with a hammer, then burying the body, her office announced Wednesday.

Ayala's death-penalty review panel recommended capital punishment in the case against 37-year-old Jimmy Gary Merritt, a spokeswoman said.

This marks the second case in which Ayala's panel will seek the death penalty since the Florida Supreme Court ruled that she must at least consider the punishment. Ayala had announced in March that she would not pursue it in any case, sparking a battle with Gov. Rick Scott.

Gov. Scott demands information on death-penalty panel from Aramis Ayala

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Records show Merritt was indicted on a first-degree murder charge Wednesday in the death of Benny Hallmark, who had been shot at least once. Officers were called to his home on Lauressa Lane near Catalina Elementary School and Memorial Middle School about 11:15 a.m. Oct. 20.

Hallmark was found dead in a reclining chair.

During the investigation, Merritt admitted to killing another man, Billy Wayne Deaton, with a hammer and burying him in his backyard.

Wednesday's announcement comes just two days after Scott sent a scathing letter to Ayala demanding to know why she missed a filing deadline in the first death-penalty case.

After the state's highest court sided with the governor in their back-and-forth battle, Ayala created a death-penalty review panel to determine for which cases the punishment was appropriate.

The first case it selected was an Osceola County homicide where a woman, Emerita Mapp, was accused of stabbing a man to death at a motel in April.

But Ayala missed a 45-day filing deadline, throwing the Mapp case into question.

Scott called it "outrageous" that she missed the deadline. Ayala blamed the governor, saying he was responsible because he had reassigned about 30 of her cases to Ocala-based State Attorney Brad King.

[email protected], 407-420-5471 or @DavidHarrisOS

2017 brings second-fewest death sentences and executions .
The number of people sentenced to death or executed in 2017 was near historically low levels, according to the annual report of a group that tracks the death penalty. States executed 23 prisoners, the second smallest total since 1991. By year's end, the number of new death sentences was expected to reach 39, which would be the second-lowest number in the modern era of capital punishment that began in the mid-1970's after the US Supreme Court banned then reauthorized it.Only last year's totals were lower, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a group that advocates for an end to the practice.

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