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Dontae Morris' girlfriend Courtnee Brantley seeks bench trial Sept. 4

TAMPA — Cortnee Brantley doesn't want a jury of her peers.

Brantley asked a judge Thursday for a bench trial on a charge that she failed to help investigators after her boyfriend, Dontae Morris, shot and killed Tampa police officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab on June 29, 2010.

Brantley's second trial on the charge is scheduled for Sept. 4 in U.S. District Court. At her first trial last month, 12 jurors were unable to reach a verdict after eight hours of deliberations. So Judge James Moody declared a mistrial.

Brantley's attorney, Grady Irvin Jr., said in a motion that picking a new jury will be exceptionally difficult because of publicity from her last trial and from Morris' trial on unrelated murder charges.

A different judge declared a mistrial earlier this month in Morris' case because of jury pool gossip.

Referring to two years gone by since Kocab and Curtis' deaths, Irvin said in the motion, "The instant case no longer has the benefit of nearly two years of 'media cool off.' "

Under federal rules, the prosecution and the judge must both agree to a bench trial before Brantley is granted her request.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Robert O'Neill could not be reached for comment.

Given Moody's previous comments about weaknesses in the prosecution's case, it seems unlikely that prosecutors will agree to a bench trial.

Moody dismissed the case against Brantley in 2010. But an appeals court later reinstated the charge, called a misprision of a felony. The court said Moody should have ruled only after hearing evidence at trial.

At trial last month, Moody expressed doubts that prosecutors could prove all the elements of the charge. To convict Brantley, prosecutors must show that she failed to report a felony and then tried to conceal it.

The felony was that she knew Morris was a felon with a gun and ammunition.

But Moody refused to grant Brantley an acquittal, allowing the case to proceed.

Morris was Brantley's passenger when Curtis stopped her for driving without a license plate. Morris is accused of killing the officers as they tried to arrest him on a warrant. He was captured four days later after the largest manhunt in Tampa history.

Brantley refused to tell authorities that Morris was the person who shot the officers. But her attorney argued to jurors that police already knew. And Irvin said Brantley did not actually see the shootings from inside the car.

William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3432.

Dontae Morris' girlfriend Courtnee Brantley seeks bench trial Sept. 4 08/23/12 [Last modified: Friday, August 24, 2012 12:08am]
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