Kendrick Morris gets 65 years in prison for rapes
TAMPA - Kendrick Morris was sentenced to concurrent 65-year prison sentences today for the rapes of two women. Morris was 16 when he savagely beat and raped a high school student as she dropped off books after hours at the Bloomingdale Regional Public Library in April 2008. He was 15 when he broke into the Clair-Mel City day care center in June 2007, robbing an employee and raping her at knife-point. Morris, now 19, was found guilty in separate trials last year.The sentencing came after the sister of the library victim read a statement, which included personal thoughts on how difficult it has been for the family to endure life following the attack. Spectators in the courtroom wept as the sister, Anna, expressed the suffering the victim lives with each day. It is TBO.com policy to not publish the names of rape victims or their families. However, Anna gave the media permission to use her name and publish her photograph. The family asked Circuit Judge Chet A. Tharpe for the maximum punishment allowable by law. Normally, Morris would be eligible for life in prison. However, the U.S. Supreme Court last year stuck down life sentences for juveniles in cases not involving murder. The sentencing had been repeatedly delayed after the defense raised concerns about the impartiality of the jury deliberations in the library rape case. The specter of jury misconduct was raised in online comments posted by one juror about the panel's forewoman. He later backed off the allegations when quizzed by Tharpe. But the judge allowed the defense to subpoena the forewoman's Facebook records. Morris' attorneys contend the forewoman knew about his earlier conviction in the day care rape. Morris' attorneys brought up the matter this morning in a motion to reject the jury's finding of guilt in the library case. Tharpe rejected the motion before proceeding with the sentencing hearing. The library rape victim was so viciously beaten she was left blind, and unable to walk, talk or eat on her own. She requires around-the-clock care. She turned 21 in April and was in jeopardy of losing the Medicaid support that allowed her to be treated at home, possibly forcing her into a nursing home. However, her family got a 90-day extension and she also was awarded a state grant for a two-month stay at the Florida Institute for Neurological Rehabilitation in Wauchula.