TAMPA — An attorney for Dontae Morris wants to delay a sentencing hearing for the convicted cop killer following the firing of a Tampa police detective who worked on the case.
Attorney Byron Hileman filed a motion last week seeking to delay Morris' scheduled May 30 sentencing to await further information on a federal grand jury investigation of former Detective Eric Houston.
The detective, a 24-year Tampa police veteran, was fired April 24 after a department investigator found that he was suspected of "egregious" conduct, according to Chief Jane Castor. Authorities have not revealed the nature of the accusations against Houston, citing the ongoing grand jury proceedings.
Hileman is seeking to delay the next scheduled hearing to allow more time to assess whether or how the Morris case might be affected by the investigation.
"If the sentencing takes place on May 30, 2014, as scheduled, defense counsel will not be able to adequately assess whether there are issues needing to be addressed to the trial court," he wrote in a court motion. If the sentencing occurs that day, it would limit the time Morris' attorneys have to raise potential arguments for a new trial.
Circuit Judge William Fuente will consider the motion May 13, Hileman said.
Houston worked on some of the Tampa Police Department's most high-profile cases. They included that of Morris, who was convicted last year in the 2010 shooting deaths of Officers Dave Curtis and Jeff Kocab. A jury recommended that Morris be sentenced to death, but a sentence has yet to be imposed by a judge.
If granted, this would be the second delay due to Houston's involvement in cases surrounding the police officers' shootings. On Friday, a federal appeals court granted Cortnee Brantley more time to file a brief outlining her case. Brantley, Morris' ex-girlfriend, was sentenced in June to a year in prison for failing to tell authorities that Morris was a felon with a loaded gun. She has been free on bail pending the appeal. The appeal now must be filed May 28, a month's delay.