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Jurors see video of police shootings as second Cortnee Brantley trial begins

TAMPA — The electrician from Haines City hadn't heard of Cortnee Brantley. The library assistant from Winter Haven said the name rang a bell. The prison secretary from Spring Hill said she could be impartial.

The three were among 13 jurors, including one alternate, chosen Monday to hear a federal criminal case against Brantley, girlfriend of the man accused of killing Tampa police Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab in a June 29, 2010, traffic stop.

Brantley, 24, faces up to three years in prison if convicted of misprision of a felony. Prosecutors must prove that she knew her boyfriend, Dontae Morris, was a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition and that she took steps to conceal it from law enforcement.

An earlier trial ended with a deadlocked jury.

And so again, Monday, a jury watched chilling video from a police cruiser's dashboard camera of a traffic stop that began with Curtis questioning Brantley about a missing tag. It shows a passenger who identified himself as Morris stepping onto the right of way seconds before gunfire erupts and the two officers fall to the ground. Morris flees on foot and Brantley flees in the car.

Prosecutor James Preston told jurors that by removing her car, Brantley deprived a police bloodhound of Morris' scent. She obeyed Morris' instruction to hide the car, Preston said. And she asked others to lie for her.

Defense attorney Grady Irvin Jr. portrayed Brantley as a college student on the right track who had previously cooperated with police.

He told jurors police were just angry that after six hours of questioning, they couldn't get Brantley to testify that she saw Morris shoot the officers. She was scared, he said, and from her vantage point in the car could not have seen the gunfire.

She didn't hide Morris, didn't hide the gun, didn't try to clean the car, Irvin said.

"The evidence in this case is going to show that Cortnee Brantley did nothing but make police angry," he said.

He suggested that Brantley did not know Morris was a felon.

However, retired police Detective Henry Duran, who led the investigation of the officers' deaths, testified that Brantley had previously visited Morris in prison, which houses only felons.

Duran said that during the five hours and 56 minutes he questioned Brantley, she declined to identify her passenger.

"She was asked in excess of 100 times," Duran said.

Was she shown the dash cam video, the prosecutor asked? Yes, Duran said.

Brantley sat with her face in her hands when the video played.

Jurors, including a man whose eyes were half shut during much of the afternoon, watched the video intently.

In assembling the jury panel, U.S. District Court Judge James Moody questioned them in small groups about pretrial publicity before culling a pool of 75 to 41. Many of those excused said they had already formed an opinion.

The trial resumes today.

Jurors see video of police shootings as second Cortnee Brantley trial begins 01/14/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 12:03am]
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