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Jury recommends the death penalty for Markeith Loyd in killing of Orlando police officer

<i>Orlando Police Department</i><br/>A jury recommended the death penalty for Markeith Loyd
Orlando Police Department
A jury recommended the death penalty for Markeith Loyd

By Gregory Lemos and Kay Jones, CNN

A jury on Wednesday recommended the death penalty for Markeith Loyd, who was convicted of killing a Florida police officer, the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida’s Chief Deputy Karen Connolly Levey confirmed to CNN.

Loyd was found guilty in November of fatally shooting Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton during a manhunt that began after he shot and killed his ex-girlfriend, CNN previously reported.

Levey told CNN that the ultimate decision as to whether Loyd lives or dies remains with the presiding judge.

The Orlando Police Department praised the jury’s decision.

“In the years since her death, Lieutenant Clayton’s loved ones and the entire OPD family waited for the day when the defendant would be held accountable for his heinous crimes. He will now face the highest penalty provided by the law,” the department said in a statement.

Loyd, who is serving life in prison for killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and her unborn child in 2016, was found guilty in the fatal shooting of Clayton, which happened during the ensuing manhunt.

He was convicted on five charges, including first degree murder of a police officer, in relation to Clayton’s death, court records show.

Clayton, 42, was a master sergeant in the police department at the time of her death. She was posthumously promoted to lieutenant.

Loyd had been previously convicted of killing Sade Dixon and her unborn child in December 2016, sparking a massive manhunt. While on the run, he shot and killed Clayton in January 2017 outside a Walmart. He was arrested days later.

Loyd’s first murder trial led to political clash

Regarding the death of Dixon, Loyd avoided the death penalty in October 2019 when a Florida jury unanimously voted not to recommend the sentence.

He was convicted that month of first-degree murder, first-degree murder of an unborn child and attempted first-degree murder, along with two counts of attempted felony murder.

The question of whether Loyd would get the death penalty after his first trial had led to a contentious legal and political fight in the state.

Before the trial started, then-Gov. Rick Scott removed the elected Florida state attorney from Loyd’s case after she said she wouldn’t seek the death penalty in his or any cases.

State attorney Aramis Ayala had argued that evidence showed the death penalty was overly expensive, slow, inhumane and did not increase public safety. Ayala said after “extensive and painstaking thought and consideration,” she determined that pursuing the death penalty “is not in the best interest of this community or the best interest of justice.”

She sued Scott over her reassignment, and the legal disagreement reached the state Supreme Court. The court ruled that Scott was within his right to reassign cases.

Loyd was arrested days after shooting Clayton. He was caught in an abandoned home dressed in body armor and carrying two handguns, police said. In the video after the arrest, Loyd’s face appeared to be swollen and bruised, and he said, “They beat me up! They beat me up!” as he walked past reporters.

The defense at the first trial argued Dixon was reaching for a gun before Loyd started shooting, CNN affiliate WFTS reported. Loyd’s actions leading up to the shooting were evidence of premeditation, prosecutors argued.

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