TAMPA — The relatives of two Tampa police officers killed in the line of duty will have a chance to address a judge before he sentences their killer.
Responding to a request from prosecutors, Hillsborough Circuit Judge William Fuente said Monday he is willing to hear from the family members of Officers Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis, who in 2010 were shot dead by Dontae Morris during a traffic stop.
Morris, 28 of Tampa, was convicted of the murders last year following a trial. Jurors unanimously recommended that he be executed, but Fuente will hear additional evidence at a hearing next month before he decides whether Morris will receive death or life imprisonment.
"Obviously, victims in the state of Florida have a right to be heard," Fuente said, indicating he would allow the officers' relatives to speak at Morris' sentencing hearing.
But it is questionable what weight, if any, the judge is allowed to accord their statements under sentencing laws. Those laws define a strict set of standards for judges to use when deciding whether to impose the death penalty.
"Whatever decision I make will be exclusive of any victim impact evidence presented to the jury or presented to the court," Fuente said.
Family members already spoke about their personal losses to the jury before it issued its death recommendation.
Morris has been charged with five murders, and has been convicted for three of them with two cases pending. He next is scheduled to appear in court March 13.