Thursday, December 14, 2017
News Roundup

Judge hopes to seat Dontae Morris jury Wednesday

ORLANDO — A judge narrowed a large pool of potential jurors to about 75 by the end of the second day of jury selection Tuesday for Dontae Morris, the Tampa man accused of killing two police officers.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge William Fuente said he hopes to have a 12-person jury and four alternate jurors picked Wednesday

That expectation might be optimistic in light of the extensive questioning the remaining prospective jurors still must undergo, including queries from both prosecutors and defense attorneys on the death penalty.

Morris, 28, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Tampa police Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab. The officers were shot during a traffic stop in 2010.

If convicted, Morris could receive a death sentence. The jury would recommend to the judge either execution or life imprisonment without parole.

Jury selection is taking place in Orlando because of the extensive news coverage the case has received in the Tampa Bay area.

On Tuesday, as on Monday, a number of Orange County residents said they had nevertheless heard about the case. Few remembered details beyond the shooting of two police officers. Some among them said they thought what they had learned would make it difficult to be impartial.

"If I hear that someone shot a police officer, I'm inclined to believe they shot a police officer," one woman told Fuente. Another said she believed after seeing images of Morris that he looked "kind of hostile."

Other prospective jurors asked to be dismissed from service because they were unready to sit in judgment at all. "I'm a Catholic, and I feel that God is the only one that can judge anybody," one potential juror said.

Overall, 150 jurors have been questioned. Morris' trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday in Tampa. Members of the jury and alternates will be sequestered during the proceedings.

Peter Jamison can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @petejamison.

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