FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION, AND IF
Appeal from the Circuit Court in and for Hillsborough County,
William Fuente, Judge - Case No. 292010CF010203000AHC
L. "Rex" Dimmig, II, Public Defender, and Cynthia
J. Dodge, Assistant Public Defender, Tenth Judicial Circuit,
Bartow, Florida, for Appellant
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida; and Carol
M. Dittmar, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Tampa,
Florida, for Appellee
Morris appeals his convictions of first-degree murder and his
sentences of death. For the following reasons, we affirm the
convictions and sentences.
was convicted and sentenced to death on two counts for the
first-degree premeditated murders of Officer David Curtis and
Officer Jeffrey Kocab. The evidence at trial established that
on June 29, 2010, at about 2:13 a.m., Officer Curtis pulled
over a red Toyota Camry in Hillsborough County for not
displaying an automobile tag. Cortnee Brantley was the
driver, and Dontae Morris was in the passenger's seat.
The dashcam video from Officer Curtis' patrol car was
played for the jury at trial. The transcript of that video
includes a discussion in which Morris identifies himself to
Officer Curtis, disclosing his name, age, and birthdate. The
transcript continues with a discussion between Officer Curtis
and Ms. Brantley about the missing tag on the vehicle, and
Ms. Brantley states that the tag was stolen.
Curtis returned to his patrol car, entered Morris' name
in his in-car computer, and discovered that there was a
warrant out for Morris. He called for backup, and Officer
Kocab pulled up and parked behind Officer Curtis' parked
patrol car. Then both officers approached the passenger side
of the parked Camry. Officer Curtis, with Officer Kocab
standing right behind him at the passenger side of the
vehicle, asked Morris to exit the vehicle. Morris exited the
vehicle as if he was surrendering but instead grabbed a gun
and shot both officers in the head. The approximate time for
the homicides of Officers Curtis and Kocab was 2:18 a.m. This
interaction is captured in the dashcam video in the following
[Officer Curtis]: -you know anything about it?
[The Defendant]: The warrant?
[Officer Curtis]: Yeah.
[The Defendant]: I ain't got no warrant.
[Officer Curtis]: Okay. Step over here. Turn around and step
and put your hands behind your back.
[Ms. Brantley]: Baby-Babe.
remaining portion of the video captures panicking individuals
tending to the injured officers and performing CPR. Both
officers were transported to Tampa General Hospital where
they were later pronounced dead. The officers' autopsies
confirmed that both officers died of fatal gunshot wounds to
the head. Furthermore, an expert in the field of firearms
analysis and identification concluded that both of the
projectiles removed from the bodies of Officer Curtis and
Officer Kocab were fired from the same firearm.
following the shooting, Morris fled the scene, running on
foot northbound. Four days after the homicides, Morris turned
front seat of Officer Curtis' patrol vehicle, detectives
found Officer Curtis' notepad and Cortnee Brantley's
driver's license. On the notepad, Officer Curtis had
noted the name and birthdate of the passenger as it was
provided to him when he asked the passenger to identify
himself. Additionally, in Officer Curtis' car, the mobile
dispatch terminal, or in-car computer, indicated Dontae
Morris' name, his identifying information, and a
photograph of him. Morris' birth certificate was entered
into evidence and matched the name and birthdate that the
passenger of the Camry in the dashcam video provided to
Jones testified that she saw Morris, whom she knew as
"Quelo, " on the day of the murders in the morning.
She remembered that he was wearing a dark blue vest with a
white shirt underneath, dark khaki shorts, and white sneakers
or tennis shoes. Ms. Jones also testified that Morris called
her around 2 a.m. Later that day, detectives interviewed Ms.
Jones. When the detectives showed her a photograph, which was
a still photo from the dashcam video, she identified the
individual in the photo as Morris. She testified that it
looked like Morris because of the head shape and outfit and
because he had on the same clothing that he had on that
morning when she saw him.
two witnesses testified that they saw a black male running
northbound from the scene of the incident. Ynalia Keen lived
in a bottom floor apartment near where the traffic stop took
place. She testified that on the night of the incident, she
had stepped out of her apartment to get snacks from a gas
station, and, when she heard the gunshots, she rushed back
inside. From inside her apartment, looking through a front
window that looks out onto the street, she saw a black male
running on the sidewalk towards her apartment building, then
into the apartment complex, cutting through the middle of the
parking lot, and jumping a small fence. When she could not
see him through the front window, Ms. Keen went to the
kitchen to look through the window at the back of the
apartment, where she saw him jump another, taller, chain-link
next day, on June 30th, Detective Charles Massucci
interviewed Ms. Keen. Ms. Keen identified Morris'
photograph from a photographic lineup. Ms. Keen also wrote
the following statement: "Seen him on the back road with
a group of people. He had ran by my house when the people was
shot. Seen him at the Shell store."
other witness, Alfred Thompson, was walking northbound on the
street where the traffic stop took place. As he walked past
the Camry, he noticed that the car had two occupants sitting
in the front seat, a black female in the driver's side
and a black male in the passenger's side. He also saw the
officer in his vehicle at that time. After Mr. Thompson
passed the cars, he heard two gunshots coming from behind him
from the direction of the police car and the other vehicle,
and he hid behind another car; he did not see the individual
who fired the shots. Thereafter, Mr. Thompson saw a black
male run northbound (on the same sidewalk he was walking on),
go through an apartment complex, and jump a chain-link fence.
north of the crime scene, detectives found footprints on the
bottom part of the large fence at the perimeter at the back
of the apartment complex and also found a piece of a zipper
that was torn off from an article of clothing attached to the
top of that fence.
night of the murders, Morris called Ashley Price and confided
in her regarding the murders. Ms. Price went to the Tampa
Police Department on June 30, the next day, and spoke with
Officer Kevin Durkin. She testified that she knew Morris as
"Quelo" and that Morris called her more than once
in the early morning hours of June 29. When she answered a
call from Morris around 3:30 a.m., he asked for a ride, but
she did not give him one. She spoke with him on the phone
again at around noon that day, and Morris told Ms. Price
"that he did it, " telling her to watch the news
about the police officers. Ms. Price also testified that
Morris told her the following: that he shot the officers to
get away from them, that he was out of the car when he shot
the officers, that there were two officers, that he shot them
in the head, that he referred to them as "crackers,
" that he got the gun from under the seat, that he gave
the officer his name, that the officer had gone back to run
his name, that he was afraid that he had a warrant, that he
was the passenger in the car, and that he was going to try to
go to Jacksonville.
Charles Massucci confirmed that between the time of the
murders and the afternoon of June 30, there were no releases
from the Tampa Police Department about the facts of the case
to the press or to the ...