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The Trial of Dontae Morris

Another criminal trial, the trial of Dontae Morris, has grasped the Tampa Bay area; this case unfortunately involves the killing of two Tampa Police Department Officers.  Tampa criminal defense attorneys are attentively watching this trial as it involves several interesting legal issues.  As you will recall, this occurred several summers ago in 2010 and involved two Tampa policemen, who pulled over a car, which he was riding in.  Ultimately, Morris is alleged to have shot the two unsuspecting officers because he was afraid they would discover he had a warrant for his arrest.

This trial began on November 12, 2013 in Tampa with a jury from Orange County, Florida.  Interestingly enough, the jury was selected from Orlando because the Court found that the pretrial publicity had tainted the Hillsborough County jury pool.  The search for the killers of the two officers literally shut down Tampa and dominated local news coverage for weeks after the murders.  As you could imagine, it would have been almost impossible to have found a jury that hadn’t heard something about the case and formed some sort of opinion about it in Tampa, Florida.  This is similar to what occurred during the Casey Anthony trial, where the Orange County court came to Pinellas County for a jury.  It is worth noting it proved very difficult even to select a jury in Orlando as one juror remarked that he had already been convicted of murder, which is true, but nearly ruined another group of potential jurors.  As way of background, Morris was charged and convicted of another unrelated homicide.  He has been discussed as the potential suspect in a number of other cases around the city as well.

In addition to the Jury coming from Orlando, this case is noteworthy because the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office is seeking the death penalty.  Based solely on what the media has disclosed about the case, it appears the State is pursuing the death penalty based on the capital felony occurring in a cold, calculated and premediated fashion and that the “capital felony was committed to disrupt or hinder the lawful exercise of any governmental function or the enforcement of laws”.   Additionally based on Morris’s well-documented criminal past, it appears he lacks many, if any, mitigating circumstances.  Generally, State Attorneys across Florida seek the death penalty in cases involving the murder or law enforcement.

This case also made national and local news because the entire incident was captured on the dashcam of the deceased’s officer’s squad car.  Individuals, who have had to see the video, have warned that is extremely violent and difficult to watch.  Ultimately, Morris’s girlfriend, Courtnee Brantley, was charged and convicted with misprision of a felony based her on failing to alert authorities that Morris had a loaded firearm.  This matter is being appealed and potentially may be overturned given the unique facts of the case and the obscurity of the charge.  As you can imagine, she was charged after immense public pressure was levied against her and authorities after he became apparent that she literally permitted the two TPD officers to lie dying and she failed to notify or assist them in any regard.

If you have any questions concerning the trial of Dontae Morris or any other matter concerning any Tampa criminal defense matter, contact the Tampa criminal defense attorneys of Hackworth Law for a free case consultation.  If you wish to immediately speak to someone, please use our “contact us now” tab in the upper right hand portion of the website.  Thanks for your time.