TAMPA — Prosecutors will be allowed to tell a jury that Kendrick Morris' DNA links him to the brutal rape of a teenage girl two years ago outside Bloomingdale Regional Public Library.
Hillsborough Circuit Judge Chet A. Tharpe announced that decision Thursday in response to a 76-page motion Morris' public defenders filed to suppress evidence against him. Had the judge granted the defense's motion, the prosecution would have suffered a major hit to its case.
Tharpe will allow most of the evidence to remain.
He ruled that prosecutors can use statements Morris made to detectives while being held as a runaway before he was read his rights. The judge tossed a videotaped conversation with Morris' mother in a police interview room, but kept the evidence gleaned from a search of her home.
Morris was 16 when he was accused of attacking an 18-year-old high school student so violently that she now depends on a wheelchair and a feeding tube and has no memory of that night.
Prosecutors say the victim was talking to a friend on her cell phone as she drove to the library to drop off books the night of April 24, 2008. There, the victim told her friend she saw a "weird guy."
The friend heard a scream, and the call was cut off.
The victim's car was found parked at the book drop, still running, with blood droplets on the door.
She was discovered in a field next to the library, half naked and badly beaten.
Morris' public defenders argued that evidence against him was improperly obtained.
They told a judge they want to argue a motion to move his trial to another city based on publicity. They will do so in July.
The trial is scheduled to start in September.
Alexandra Zayas can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3354.