TAMPA - Opening statements in Dontae Morris' first murder trial began Monday morning in Tampa.
He is accused of killing five people, including two Tampa police officers, in 2010. This trial is for the murder of Rodney Jones outside the Cotton Club in west Tampa in May of that same year.
In opening statements, Assistant State Attorney Scott Harmon said Morris confessed to killing Jones. "A jail deputy...who you'll hear from in this case, will tell you that he's, ah, near the cell the defendant's in. He's observing the defendant when the defendant says 'I repent. I repent for killing,'" Harmon said.
The defense told jurors there is not enough evidence to convict his client. "We believe that the evidence does not show with a sufficient degree of reliability to be beyond any reasonable doubt that Dontae Morris was involved at all," said defense attorney Byron Hileman.
The name of Morris' ex-girlfriend, Cortnee Brantley came up during opening statements. Prosecutors say Morris called her the night of the murder to set up an alibi
Brantley was found guilty by a federal jury of withholding crucial information following the police officer shootings.
The 12-member jury, seated last week, is from Orlando. Hillsborough Circuit Judge William Fuente moved the jury selection process to Orlando after some members of a Tampa jury pool admitted they had talked about the case.
Morris faces the death penalty for the murders of Tampa police officers Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis during a traffic stop. He turned himself in after one of the biggest manhunts in Tampa history.
Investigators say Morris killed another man the same month he shot Rodney Jones, and one more in April before shooting officers Curtis and Kocab.
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Plenty of sunshine with high humidity, but low chances for an afternoon shower or storm inland.