TAMPA — Calling his actions "absolutely senseless," a judge sentenced Charles Waits to life in prison without parole Friday for the 2011 murders of South Tampa teenagers Kiara and Jeremi Brito.
Waits, 21, was convicted on two counts of first-degree murder last month in connection with the fatal shootings of 16-year-old Kiara and Jeremi, 13.
It was the only possible sentence under state law that could be imposed for the killings, but Hillsborough Circuit Judge Emmett Lamar Battles drove home his view of the crime's severity by also handing down life terms for Waits' related robbery and burglary convictions....
TAMPA — The emergence last week of a sexual assault accusation against Jameis Winston has quickly clouded the reputation of the star Florida State University quarterback, dimming his once-bright Heisman Trophy prospects and focusing the collective glare of reporters from across the country on Tallahassee.
But while the details of an alleged rape in December 2012 have been more than sufficient to set off a media frenzy, it seems the case would be on shakier footing in a court of law....
TAMPA — Prosecutors told a jury Thursday that Thomas Huggins killed a dog with his bare hands.
Huggins' attorneys didn't deny that, but claimed it hadn't been proven to be a cruel death. Testifying in his defense, Huggins said that he didn't want the dog to suffer, it had just grown too large and aggressive.
It took jurors about an hour Thursday to find Huggins guilty of animal cruelty....
TAMPA — It took a jury less than an hour Tuesday to decide that Dontae Morris, 28, should pay with his life for the murders of two Tampa police officers.
The unanimous recommendation, which won't take effect until confirmed by Hillsborough Circuit Judge William Fuente, concludes Morris' trial for the 2010 killings of Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab.
Last week, the same jury found Morris guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of escaping from custody....
TAMPA — Over a 24-year career, Valrico psychologist James Flens has become one of the most prominent experts-for-hire in Florida's family courts. He wrote the book — literally — on psychological testing of children in bitter divorce cases, and sits on a powerful committee that reviews misconduct allegations against lawyers.
Flens has made far-reaching recommendations to judges on children's parenting needs and talked at conferences across the country about how to take the measure of family dysfunction. His influence extends beyond the field of mental health: As a member of a state Bar panel that decides whether Hillsborough County attorneys should be investigated for ethical lapses, he serves on a sort of grand jury for the local legal community....
TAMPA — There was no celebration outside the courtroom where Dontae Morris was convicted Friday night of killing two Tampa police officers.
There were no relieved embraces, no nervous laughter, none of the signs of relief and rejoicing, however small, that prosecutors and victims sometimes permit themselves when a trial has run its grueling course.
Instead, there was funereal silence, maintained by rows of stone-faced police officers in blue. In front of them stood Tampa police Chief Jane Castor, her eyes red, her posture stiff, speaking slowly and deliberately, seeming very tired....
TAMPA — Prosecutors are expected to rest their case today in the trial of Dontae Morris, the man accused of killing two Tampa police officers.
Unless Morris decides to testify in his own defense — an unlikely development, but not impossible — attorneys will then make their closing arguments and one of Tampa's most heavily publicized murder cases in recent years will go to a jury for deliberation....
TAMPA — Prosecutors' momentum slackened on the second day of the trial of Dontae Morris, the 28-year-old man accused of killing two Tampa police officers, as the riveting material the state presented the day before gave way to a flawed witness, circumstantial evidence and a call for a mistrial from Morris' defense team.
On Tuesday, the first day of testimony, prosecutors had shown jurors a police cruiser dashboard camera video that they said showed Morris fatally shooting Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab during a 2010 traffic stop. ...
TAMPA — The two gunshots that killed Tampa police Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab came close enough together to sound like one, a violent percussion like a pounding wave, and when the jury heard them replayed, one man almost jumped out of his seat.
Shock and outrage are words overused in the criminal courts, but jurors' outward reactions to a video authorities say shows murder defendant Dontae Morris killing the officers cannot be described otherwise. Some shuddered. Two shook their heads. One woman frowned and leaned forward in her chair, looking close to tears. ...
TAMPA — Video has proved a powerful force in the criminal justice system, helping both prosecutors and defense lawyers cut through the lies or foggy memories of witnesses, suspects and police.
But as Dontae Morris goes on trial today in the killings of two Tampa police officers, the video evidence that is central to the case will likely serve a single role: pointing, perhaps inescapably, to Morris' guilt....
ORLANDO — A jury was sworn in Thursday to decide whether Dontae Morris is guilty of killing two police officers, setting the stage for a trial next week in one of the Tampa Bay area's most closely watched murder cases.
The jury — an eclectic group that includes a physical therapist, an airline pilot and a retired trucker — was seated despite serious concerns expressed by defense attorneys, and even one prospective juror, about irregularities in the selection process. Those problems could linger over the rest of Morris' trial, since they would likely form the basis of an appeal if he is convicted....
ORLANDO — Half a week of painstaking jury selection for the man accused of killing two Tampa police officers was nearly spoiled Wednesday when an 80-year-old woman blurted out details of the defendant's criminal history in front of a large group of prospective jurors.
Those jurors are not supposed to know about any accusations besides the police murders with which defendant Dontae Morris, 28, is charged. But a judge ruled Wednesday that jury selection would proceed despite the outburst, which could still be a potent issue for an appeal....
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....
As jury selection began Monday in the double murder trial of Dontae Morris, one factor above all was shaping the 12-person panel that will decide his fate: The men he is accused of killing wore a badge.
The murder of a police officer, like the murder of a child, casts a long shadow. That shadow is extending over the earliest stage of the trial of Morris, who is charged with gunning down Tampa officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab in a 2010 traffic stop....
ORLANDO — Starting today, Dontae Morris will experience one of the American justice system's strangest and most consequential rituals: choosing a group of strangers who could decide whether he lives or dies.
Jury selection begins this morning in Orlando for Morris, accused of murdering five men in the summer of 2010. The trial now getting under way involves the most heavily publicized of his alleged crimes, the killing of two Tampa police officers. ...