Death: Jury recommends death penalty for Dontae Morris

Judge ultimately decides fate for cop killer

TAMPA - UPDATE: After a short period of deliberation, the jury in the Dontae Morris case advised the death penalty Tuesday afternoon. 

In less than an hour, the jury voted unanimously.

Morris was convicted of killing two Tampa Police officers Jeff Kocab and David Curtis Friday.

Police Chief Jane Castor made a brief statement after the jury made their recommendation.

"Thank you to the jurors for their service in this difficult time," Castor said.

She said something that resonated with her was that Officers Curtis and Kocab were not only serving their community the evening they were killed, they were also protecting the rights of people like Morris, who she says was able to get a fair trial.

Castor said the jury came to the only possible conclusion.

"There is no doubt that he is an evil individual," Castor said.

The judge said Morris will be sentenced sometime in March or April, at which time Morris will have the chance to appeal.

WATCH LIVE at  http://wfts.tv/V2uW2W .

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Previous report:

At 4:45am Tuesday morning, a Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office K-9 unit was ready to go just outside the courthouse.

Increased security on the ready in preparation for the second phase of the Dontae Morris murder trial.  He's the man convicted of killing two Tampa Police officers after a week of testimony.

He will face the same 12 jurors who found him guilty of first-degree murder in the slayings of Tampa Officers David Curtis and Jeff Kocab in June of 2010 during a traffic stop.

During the penalty phase, jurors will decide if Morris should get a life sentence, or be sentenced to death.  Tampa Attorney Barry Cohen says it all comes down to mitigating and aggravating circumstances.

Mitigating are those that partially explain or excuse someone's behavior.  It doesn't absolve the person of their conviction and it's not necessarily an excuse, but simply means the actions are seen as less egregious considering the circumstances.

Cohen says in this case, the jury will be looking at the opposite, aggravating circumstances.  Aggravating factors make a crime more heinous and in turn, the penalty more harsh.

Those factors the jury will be looking at will probably include the fact that Morris was already convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting death of a man outside a Tampa nightclub the same year he killed the officers.  Also the fact that the victims were law enforcement officers will play a big role in the jury's decision.  Considering one could argue the slayings were to escape the law.

After review, the jury will make a recommendation for either, or.  The judge will hear that recommendation and has the right to either uphold it or overturn it, making his own decision.

But Cohen says in his legal opinion, there is no way Morris will walk away without the death penalty.

The penalty phase will begin at 8:30 Tuesday morning.   WATCH IT LIVE at  http://wfts.tv/V2uW2W .

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