TAMPA - There was no mistaking the sound of the two explosions as the bullets fired from the handgun's barrel. The loud "Bang! Bang!" echoed through the vacuous 13th floor courtroom in the federal building in downtown Tampa.
While the video was fuzzy, black and white, and distant, jurors clearly knew what they had watched: the killing of two police officers. And the bone-jarring noise of the gunshots was the sound of death.
It was the most gripping moment in the trial of Cortnee Brantley, the girlfriend of suspected cop-killer Dontae Morris. The disturbing dashboard camera images had been sealed by the court, and U.S. District Judge James Moody ordered that it only be played in his courtroom, not to be seen by the general public.
The video has become the focal point in a trial that's supposed to be about whether Brantley, 24, knowingly withheld knowledge from police that Morris was a convicted felon and was carrying a weapon with ammunition in the early morning of June 29, 2010. That's the day Tampa officers Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis were shot to death during a traffic stop.
On a courtroom screen, jurors watched the two officers approach Brantley's car on the passenger side, presumably to arrest Morris for an outstanding warrant. A split-second after Morris begins to exit the vehicle, he appears to draw a gun and fire a pair of point-blank shots into the heads of the policemen.
Both officers immediately collapsed, and Morris himself dove to the ground before taking off on foot.
The families of the victims walked out of the courtroom before the tape was played.
The jurors, while solemn in their stares, never looked away. Brantley covered her eyes. Others in the audience let out quiet gasps as the quick flashes from the shooting were seen on the screen.
Brantley's car is seen speeding away, and prosecutors argued that her decisions from that point on are the reason she's on trial.
"She went running away in a cowardly fashion," said Assistant U.S. Attorney James Preston.
During his closing argument, Preston said Brantley made no effort to call police about the shootings. Within ten minutes after she left the scene, investigators testified she called and texted her boyfriend.
"We can see from the phone records, the number wasn't 9-1-1, it was Dontae Morris," Preston said.
The prosecution also displayed the content of Brantley's text messages, including "Til death do us part," "staying loyal," and "I love you."
When Brantley was questioned by police, investigators said they asked her more than 100 times about who was in the car with her at the time of the shootings, but she didn't cooperate.
Grady Irvin, Brantley's defense attorney, pleaded with jurors not to get caught up in the super-charged atmosphere of a cop-killing, and instead focus on the charge against his client.
Irvin said the case is about "emotion versus the law." He said police passion after the killings went amok, leading to the unusual federal charge against Brantley. Irvin went so far as to suggest that the misprision of a felony case was a trumped up charge.
"That's why we have claims that police set people up," Irvin said.
Still, the video evidence remains the focal point. When jurors received the case late in the afternoon, they asked a question about specifics in the video. The judge allowed jurors to retire for the evening and return Wednesday morning.
It's expected jurors will get a second chance to see the videotape, as unforgettable as it might have been the first time.
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A warm and humid day with sun, clouds and a chance for showers and storms mainly in the afternoon. Storms won't be as numerous as yesterday.