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Judge declares a "mister' trial for murder case

Just so that jurors don't get a false impression, defense attorneys Monday asked that prosecutors refer to murder defendant Walter Lee Morris as "Mr. Morris" or "Walter."

Prosecutors objected, saying 28-year-old Morris deserved no special treatment.

But Senior Judge Robert Beach settled on referring to Morris as "Mister."

"No first name addressing," Beach said. "I don't like that in any case."

Of course, if the prosecutors slip and called Morris "the defendant," Beach said, he won't be outraged. "Just don't make it a habit."

PUBLIC ART: Potential jurors were being questioned in Courtroom 1 Monday on their beliefs about the death penalty, opinions of police officers and mentally impaired family members when the room burst into laughter.

They were distracted by the art that suddenly appeared on a window. A worker removing tint film had carved a profile of a bald man with a big nose and slight smile. He peeled away the surrounding tint and left on the window was the man's profile.

"I like his art, it's just not appropriate at this time," Senior Judge Robert Beach said during the courtroom laughter.

The two Solar Graphics employees _ Jesse Gooding, 29, and Jerry Ashpole, 41 _ had to wait until the judge took a lunch break to remove the film because the noise was distracting.

"It was just spontaneous," said Gooding, who actually did the "art." The two specialize in window graphic design, and it sometimes spills over into everything they do. They did not know the courtroom was being used.

SEE YA!: After 13 years with the city, Shirley Church is retiring from the Tarpon Springs engineering department _ with her sense of humor intact.

In an inter-office memo, she wrote: "It's been a good 13 years and I know I'll miss the staff and routine+."

Why the asterisk? At the bottom of the memo, she wrote: "+ I'll get over it."

TRUST ME ON THIS ONE: Pinellas School Board members agreed to spend about $27-million to raise salaries next year for all district employees, including teachers. They wished they had even more money to boost teacher salaries.

Board member Jane Gallucci had a suggestion to get more state funding.

"Let's have legislators teach for a day," she said.

Susan Latvala, who is married to Senate Majority Leader Jack Latvala, didn't think that sounded so great.

"They're not qualified," she said. "That'd be like having School Board members teach."

FIRE FEARS: All those pictures of raging wildfires are giving Pinellas County residents some anxiety. Parks Director Diana Kyle said she has been getting calls about safety in the county's parks. "I'm getting citizens requesting no charcoal be allowed in our grills," she said. "They're really nervous."

Kyle hasn't banned charcoal yet, but she said anyone operating a grill needs to think about fire. "You need a 5-gallon bucket of water, even in the back yard."

_ Times staff writers Jounice Nealy, Katherine Gazella and Kelly Ryan contributed to this report.