Sunday, February 25, 2018
News Roundup

Prosecutor asks federal judge to let Brantley guilty verdict stand

TAMPA — When U.S. District Court Judge James S. Moody Jr. prepared jurors this month to consider the case against Cortnee Brantley, he offered them this assurance:

"Your deliberations are secret," he said, "and you'll never have to explain your verdict to anyone."

Except him. Moody asked for an explanation if jurors found Brantley guilty of concealing that Dontae Morris, a felon, had a gun. When jurors returned a guilty verdict, the judge then asked if they wanted "to add any further reasons in there?"

Moody excused the jury but did not adjudicate Brantley guilty. That was 10 days ago.

Federal prosecutor James C. Preston Jr., in a motion Friday, suggested that the jury's decision had been questioned enough.

"Further interpretation of the verdict is unwarranted and intrudes into deliberations," Preston wrote in response to a pending defense motion to acquit Brantley.

"The verdict must stand."

That will be up to Moody, who has expressed skepticism over the government's ability to prove the obscure charge, called "misprision of a felony."

He could take up the matter next week.

Brantley is free on bond. Morris is charged in state court with killing five men, including two Tampa police officers shot alongside Brantley's parked car.

Preston, an assistant U.S. Attorney, asked Moody to leave the jury's verdict undisturbed.

The prosecutor cited case law that supports a jury's power to arrive at a verdict without having to provide reasons or reveal deliberations.

In this case, the jury did provide a reason.

Here's the justification the jury gave for the verdict:

"The defendant knowingly and willfully concealed her knowledge of the possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon from the authorities by coordinating via phone calls and text messages" with Morris.

Defense attorney Grady C. Irvin Jr. picked those words apart as soon as he heard them.

The jury had written that Brantley "coordinated" with Morris but stopped short of saying they executed a plan, he said.

Preston, in his filing Friday, said the elements of the charge against Brantley had been explained to jurors. They had been told how to recognize the crime. Twice, he reminded the judge that in considering a motion for a judgment of acquittal, a district court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the government.

He provided a dictionary definition of "coordination."

And then he took the discussion away from legal citations and put it back on the street where, on June 29, 2010, Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab lay dying at the side of the road, as Brantley sped away.

"Although the defendant attempts to distance the federal felony (possession of a firearm by a convicted felon) from the murders of Officers Curtis and Kocab, they are not independent events," Preston wrote.

"It was that very felon, using that very firearm, during that very possession, who killed those law enforcement officers, resulting in the defendant's commission of the misprision offense."

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