Thursday, June 21, 2018
News Roundup

Police killer Dontae Morris denied new trial

TAMPA — Convicted of killing two Tampa police officers and sentenced to death, Dontae Morris will not get a new trial, a Hillsborough County circuit judge ruled Tuesday.

In a six-page decision, Judge William Fuente said the evidence against Morris was too great to merit another trial.

"After reviewing and reweighing the evidence presented during trial, the Court finds there was overwhelming evidence, including a dash-cam video of the shootings, to support the guilty verdicts," Fuente wrote.

Nearly four years have passed since June 29, 2010, when Morris shot Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab, each 31, on the side of an east Tampa road.

Their interaction with Morris began when Curtis pulled over a Toyota Camry driven by Morris' then-girlfriend after seeing it had a missing tag. Morris was in the passenger seat and gave the officer his name. Curtis checked it against police records and saw a Jacksonville bad check warrant.

Kocab arrived as backup. As the two officers approached the Camry, a camera on a police cruiser dashboard recorded Morris rising from the car and shooting. The officers collapsed and Morris ran off; he was arrested four days later after the largest manhunt in Tampa's history.

His then-girlfriend, Cortnee Brantley, drove off. She was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison for concealing from authorities that Morris was a felon with a loaded gun. She is free pending appeal.

A jury found Morris guilty of murdering the officers and, in May, he was sentenced to death.

In their motion for a new trial, attorneys for Morris argued that prosecutors had "insufficient evidence" to prove the officers' murders were premeditated.

They claimed that one of the prospective jurors, who was never named to the jury, biased the jury pool when she made a statement about a prior murder conviction of Morris' during jury selection. They also said a jail deputy who overheard Morris say, "I repent for killing," should not have been allowed to testify and certain statements from the officers' widows should not have been allowed either.

Morris had previously been sentenced to life in prison for killing another man, Rodney Jones, and was charged with murdering Derek Anderson and Harold Wright in 2010, before he encountered the Tampa police officers. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the Anderson case.

Anna M. Phillips can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3354.

Comments
The Daystarter: CareerSource used credit cards to boost hiring totals; report says Winston suspension coming; Hedman wins Norris Trophy; get ready for Pride

The Daystarter: CareerSource used credit cards to boost hiring totals; report says Winston suspension coming; Hedman wins Norris Trophy; get ready for Pride

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• Today is also the official start of summer, not that anyone will be able to tell. It will be hot and muggy with just a 30 percent chance of rain heading into Friday, according to 10We...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays journal: 7 pitches, 3 straight homers prove too much in loss to Astros

Rays journal: 7 pitches, 3 straight homers prove too much in loss to Astros

HOUSTON — The Rays were engaged in a third straight tight, go-either-way battle with the defending champ Astros on Wednesday.Until they were not.A brutal seven-pitch sequence by starter Nathan Eovaldi changed everything, as he gave up three con...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Romano: Intrigue behind all those manicured lawns

Romano: Intrigue behind all those manicured lawns

I’ve always thought homeowners associations had a lot in common with cops.People love to complain about them and often accuse them of abusing their power. And yet as soon as a neighbor paints his house a hot shade of fuchsia, you’re screaming for the...
Published: 06/21/18
Daniel Ruth: Florida should consider taking back its outsourced foster care services

Daniel Ruth: Florida should consider taking back its outsourced foster care services

We hear a great deal about how government is the source of all evil, a wasteful, incompetent coven of lazy paper-pushing bureaucrats.That is why the heavens open and the angels sing and all is right with the world whenever we can wrest away various s...
Published: 06/21/18
A tight supply cuts into Tampa Bay home sales while prices keep rising

A tight supply cuts into Tampa Bay home sales while prices keep rising

Tampa Bay’s two largest counties showed anemic home sales in May as prices continued to rise due to a tight supply. In Pinellas, sales of single-family home plunged nearly 12 percent from the previous May, the second-worst showing in a year. P...
Updated: 25 minutes ago
Could Lucky’s Market move in to Clearwater’s old Albertsons?

Could Lucky’s Market move in to Clearwater’s old Albertsons?

Lucky’s Market is considering a move in to the old Albertsons box space in Clearwater, according to preliminary plans filed with the city. Lucky’s master broker, Rick Lewellyn, was listed on an agenda as discussing renovating the existing property wi...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Clearwater wants $40 million from the county for a stadium. But there’s not $40 million to give.

Clearwater wants $40 million from the county for a stadium. But there’s not $40 million to give.

CLEARWATER —The city’s proposed $79.7 million overhaul of the Philadelphia Phillies’ spring training facilities depends on getting $40 million in bed taxes from Pinellas County.But records show even if county officials wanted to bankroll the Phillies...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Police: Couple leased someone else’s home to 15 families at same time

Police: Couple leased someone else’s home to 15 families at same time

LARGO — Vanessa Rodriguez thought she found the right house for her three kids, in the right neighborhood, for the right rent. She signed the lease for April 30, sent a $2,300 money order and planned to move in June 1.Then the delays started. She sai...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays see the results of keeping a good, young core group together

Rays see the results of keeping a good, young core group together

HOUSTON — The Rays saw a lot on the weeklong trip that ended with Wednesday's game against that Astros, beyond the street hustlers prowling in Times Square and the urban cowboys and girls parading through H-town.There was an impressive debuting...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Kevin Knox poised to become Tampa Bay’s highest NBA draft pick

Kevin Knox poised to become Tampa Bay’s highest NBA draft pick

Kevin Knox Sr. was watching the NFL draft 24 years ago when the phone rang. Buffalo coach Marv Levy was on the other line."Marv said they were taking me," said Knox Sr., a standout receiver at FSU.Soon after, Knox Sr. saw his name scroll across ESPN'...
Updated: 7 hours ago