Morris faces judge on fourth murder charge

TAMPA — Facing a judge Saturday morning on his fourth murder charge, Dontae Morris was appointed the same regional public defender who will represent him in the killings of two Tampa police officers and another Tampa man.

Morris, 24, was charged Friday in the June 8 death of 25-year-old Harold Wright, a killing that Hills­borough County sheriff's deputies said was the result of a drug-related robbery.

Circuit Judge Jack Espinosa Jr. ordered Morris held without bond in the Wright case.

He is already being held at the county jail without bail on charges he killed Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab early June 29 and 21-year-old Derek Anderson on May 18. Police say Morris remains a person of interest in an unspecified fifth Tampa homicide.

Wright of Valrico was found dead on the side of the road next to a rented blue Dodge Charger in the 2000 block of S 51st Street in Palm River. Sheriff's investigators linked Morris to Wright's death through fingerprints on the car, an arrest affidavit states.

Stephen Fisher, a regional conflict lawyer, said last week that his office would represent Morris in state court. The state-funded regional conflict offices represent defendants in cases where public defenders cite conflicts of interest.

Fisher appeared with Morris on Saturday via closed-circuit television from the Orient Road Jail and asked that his office also be appointed in the Wright case. Espinosa granted the request.

Morris, surrounded by four deputies, said nothing, but nodded toward the judge before he walked away.

Hillsborough County Public Defender Julianne Holt's office said it could not represent Morris because of its involvement with Cortnee Brantley, the woman police say drove the car the night the officers were killed.

Brantley has since hired a private lawyer, Grady Irvin, to represent her on a charge of misprision of a felony, a federal law that makes it illegal to witness a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and not report it.

Kim Wilmath can be reached at (813) 661-2442 or kwilmath@sptimes.com.

Morris faces judge on fourth murder charge 07/10/10 [Last modified: Sunday, July 11, 2010 12:12am]

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