TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A man already serving a life sentence for murder was convicted Friday evening fatally shooting Tampa police officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab during a routine traffic stop in East Tampa.
After four hours of deliberations, a Hillsborough County jury found Dontae Morris guilty of two counts of first-degree murder. The same panel will reconvene next week to recommend either a life sentence or the death penalty. A judge will make the final decision.
Morris killed Curtis and Kocab in June 2010 after they stopped a car driven by Cortnee Brantley. Morris was in the passenger seat and reportedly shot both officers to avoid arrest on a warrant. Brantley was previously sentenced to a year in prison for concealing information from authorities.
Prosecutors had argued that there was a "mountain" of evidence against Morris, including a dashboard video that showed him shooting both officers, then running off. The Tampa Tribune (http://goo.gl/p7oOIc ) reports that the murders prompted the largest manhunt in the city's history.
Assistant State Attorney Scott Harmon played for jurors samples of the dashboard video's audio along with phone conversations Morris had from jail to demonstrate that it was the same voice. He also pointed out that the passenger in Brantley's car the night of the shooting didn't hesitate to provide officers with the spelling of Morris' name, his age and his date of birth.
"This video is the strongest evidence in the case of the defendant's identity," Harmon said.
Still, defense attorney Karen Meeks said the prosecution had failed to prove that the killer shown in the video was actually Morris. But Morris didn't testify, and the defense presented no witnesses or exhibits.
Besides the police killings, Morris was convicted earlier this year of an unrelated murder and is awaiting trial in two other murder cases.
Information from: The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune, http://www.tampatrib.com