Dontae Morris trial begins in the death of Rodney Jones

Dontae Morris to face a judge

TAMPA - Jury selection began Monday in the first murder trial of Dontae Morris.  He's accused of killing five people, including two Tampa police officers, in the span of a few weeks.

Police say Morris shot and killed Rodney Jones in May, 2010, after he left the Cotton Club, on North Albany Avenue, in Tampa. This happened just one month before he allegedly killed officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab.
Attorney Joe Episcopo, whose not involved in the trial, says he expects the case to be over by the end of the week, unless the jury selection process takes longer than usual.
"If people are familiar with the defendant and some of the other things that he's accused of, they may have to do individual to see what they know and of course not pollute the other jurors," Episcopo said.
Investigators claim Morris also killed another man the same month he shot Jones, one more in April and then killed officers Curtis and Kocab during a traffic stop in June.
Morris, who was the focus of one of the largest manhunts in Tampa's history, eventually surrendered.
Episcopo said the Jones case will play a key role in the officers' trials. He said it could help build a stronger case for the death penalty. 
"When they come to the time to try the police officer homicides, they'll be able to use this as a statutory aggravating factor, if they get a conviction for first degree murder. And so that will add to that case involving the police officers where you'll have two statutory factors that they were police officers and this one," Episcopo saids
But no matter the outcome of Morris' legal proceedings, Episcopo said the families are still left without the ones they love. 
"When they go, what do they see? Someone being put to sleep with chemicals. A quiet, peaceful death and you go away thinking that's not the way my loved one died. That's not justice. That's not closure," he said.
Trials for his other cases are pending.


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