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Judge moves jury selection for Dontae Morris trial to Orlando

TAMPA — Having failed once to field an impartial Hillsborough County jury for Dontae Morris — accused of five murders in 2010 — a judge has decided to look for jurors in Orlando in March.

Circuit Judge William Fuente had attempted to try Morris in August on charges that he fatally shot Rodney Jones, 42, during an attempted robbery outside the Cotton Club in West Tampa on May 31, 2010.

Three more murder trials for Morris — including one for the 2010 fatal shootings of Tampa police Officers Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis — remain in limbo, unscheduled.

In August, lawyers had reduced a pool of 200 potential jurors to 70 who said they were not familiar with the charges against Morris.

But then 16 people in the remaining pool admitted they had either participated in or overheard gossip about Morris, even though the judge gave each of them a written order not to talk about the defendant.

Fuente dismissed the pool.

On Friday, Fuente said he was concerned about the risk of failing again to find an impartial jury in Hillsborough County. "I've suggested to court administrators we shoot for Orlando."

Fuente said court officials in Orlando still have to agree to a trial date. The attorneys said they would like to try the case beginning March 4.

They have set two weeks aside for jury selection and testimony.

Still undecided is whether they will bring the Orlando jurors to Tampa for the trial, or do everything in Orlando.

They will meet Oct. 1 to make a decision.

John Barry can be reached at (813) 226-3383 or jbarry@tampabay.com.

Judge moves jury selection for Dontae Morris trial to Orlando 09/14/12 [Last modified: Friday, September 14, 2012 9:19pm]
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