Dontae Morris Sentencing: Jury recommends death penalty for convicted cop killer

7:14 PM, Nov 19, 2013   |    comments
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UPDATE: A jury has unanimously recommended the death penalty for Dontae Morris, the man convicted of killing two Tampa police officers in 2010.

In the state of Florida, the judge has the final say on whether or not a person can receive the death penalty, but must greatly consider a jury's recommendation.

All 12 jurors recommended the death sentence, after less than an hour of deliberations.

Morris' sentencing will likely take place next year. A hearing for more evidence has been set by Judge William Fuente for January 10, 2014.

Earlier report:

Tampa, Florida - The emotion could be felt in the courtroom as the widows of fallen Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab spoke from the heart.  Kelly Curtis and Sara Kocab-Redmon described to jurors Tuesday morning what life has been like since Dontae Morris killed the two beloved Tampa officers June 29, 2010.

Morris was found guilty on Friday on two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Officers Curtis and Kocab.

On Tuesday morning, Kelly Curtis bravely approached the witness stand and told jurors, "My husband was my everything, my best friend.  He is a hero."

The now-single mother of four boys talked about raising her children alone and how much she missed her husband.  "I am the mom and the dad. I taught my son how to shave, and I cook all the meals.  My mind always goes to Dave.  We had 10 wonderful years together.  He was an amazing husband."

Kelly told jurors their children were ages 9, 8, 5 and 8 months when her husband was gunned down on a traffic stop.  "I show them pictures of their daddy.  I'm trying to put the pieces back. My life was turned upside down.  One time, my son didn't recognize a picture of his daddy. I couldn't speak.  My other sons said, 'That's daddy.'"

A smiling picture of the Curtis family was shown to the jurors, prominently displayed in front of the courtroom.

Sara Kocab-Redmon also addressed jurors during victim impact statements.  She bravely told jurors, "Jeff was my best friend. We met when I was 17. We did everything together. His dream was to be a police officer."

Sara went on to say that she was pregnant prior to her husband's death and, sadly, baby Lily, was stillborn.  "After I buried my husband, I buried my baby." 

She added, "My life changed when I got that knock at the door.  The last thing I did was text him a picture of our dog.  He was having the time of his life working as a Tampa police officer. He loved it."

Chief Jane Castor sat next to the widows, along with other officers and family members, offering comfort, support and solace. Both widows told jurors that they had happy marriages and strong spiritual lives.

Also on the stand was Selecia Watson, the mother of Dontae Morris, who said she did everything she could to raise a good child.

"He was born when I was 16 years old in 1985.  My parents were not happy.  My mother beat me."

Watson told jurors that she suffered from postpartum depression. "I didn't care [about the baby].  It was overwhelming."

"He was a great student. He was the man of the house. My son was always respectful. He was a good boy, a good student. He got awards in school.  I was devastated when he was arrested."  

She went on to say that nothing in his background could have indicated that Morris would go on to kill two officers. Morris' mother broke down on the stand crying, "I did the best I could."

The state wants the death penalty in this case, while defense attorneys are trying to spare their client's life.   Prosecutor Scott Harmon told jurors, "The only just decision here is to put Dontae Morris to death."   

The state also informed jurors that Morris was convicted earlier this year of killing Rodney Jones at a nightclub called the Cotton Club, just 30 days before he murdered Officers Curtis and Kocab.

Prosecutors explained to jurors that previous felonies were aggravating circumstances in the case. The state also informed the jury that the murder of a member of law enforcement is also considered an aggravating circumstance in recommending the death penalty to Dontae Morris.

Defense attorney, Karen Meeks, told jurors, "All life is precious. There are no winners here. The victim impact statements are not evidence."

The jury will deliberate this afternoon.

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