Jury: Dontae Morris guilty of execution-style murder outside Tampa club

TAMPA - A jury selected in Orlando and brought to Tampa found Dontae Morris guilty of killing Rodney Jones in 2010.  He faces life in prison.

Jurors began deliberating Morris' fate earlier on Wednesday and later decided that Morris was guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Jones, which happened outside a west Tampa club.
 
When the verdict was read, Jones' sister began crying and repeatedly mouth the words, 'Thank you God.'
 
"I wouldn't want anyone, not even Dontae Morris to experience what we've experienced," Daphne Stephens told the judge.  "The manner in which he died... we put our pets down with more care and more love."
 
Jone's family lived only a few miles from where he was gunned down.  They came out to the crime scene.
 
'The last image we have of him is him on the ground dead," Daphne explained.
 
Jones' family asked the judge give Morris the maximum sentence, life behind bars without the possibility of parole.
 
Morris still faces charges of killing two Tampa police officers and two other men. 
 
The defense did not call any witnesses and Morris did not take the stand in his own defense. 
 
During Wednesday's morning proceedings, the prosecution showed text messages that Morris sent to his girlfriend, Cortnee Brantley, asking her to set up an alibi the night of the shooting. 
 
One text read: "Listen if anything foolish happens you and me spunt (sic) the night 2 gether in palm river since 7 at nite" 
 
The state also said Morris later texted Brantley asking her to erase those text messages from that night. 
 
Brantley was convicted in federal court earlier this year for withholding information for her role in the murders of Tampa police officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab. 
 
Morris is accused of killing the officers and three other people, including Jones. 
 
Wednesday's proceedings followed Tuesday's testimony from 24-year-old Ashley price.   
 
Price said Morris trusted her and called her frequently to talk on the phone. She told jurors that Morris confessed to killing Jones. 
 
She said it was a revenge shooting for a past wrong. 
 
"Ms. Price, did he tell you why he killed Mr. Jones?" state prosecutor Scott Harmon asked.
"From retaliation off of Mr. Jones robbing him," she answered. 
 
The problem with Ashley Price, is that she testified in an orange jail jumpsuit.   
 
She's a convicted felon with a criminal record, including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. 
 
"How many times?" asked Harmon.   
 
"Three times," she answered.   
 
"And are you currently incarcerated in the Hillsborough County Jail?" he asked.   
 
"Yes," she said. 
 
If the jury doubts her testimony, state prosecutors will have to come up with something that speaks louder.   
 
The defense made sure jurors knew Ashley Price cut a sweet deal for her latest felony, conjuring doubt that was loud and clear. 
 
"It's your testimony that you getting that favorable plea was not a reward in return for your testimony against Mr. Morris?," asked defense attorney Byron Hileman. 
  
"No, it was not," she answered. 
  
"Had nothing to do with it?" he asked her. 
  
"Nothing," she replied.

 

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