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Wednesday, Jun 20, 2018
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Steve Otto Columns

Otto: Technically, justice was served

During the weekend I kept thinking about a couple of stories from late last week. You could say they weren't related, but they were.

In the first article: After four — what must have been excruciatingly long — years, a judge sentenced Dontae Morris to die for his crimes.

“I do order that Mr. Morris be taken by the proper authorities to the Florida State Prison and there be kept under confinement until a day for execution is set. ... I do order that on that said date Mr. Dontae Morris be put to death in the manner provided by law.”

Of course it is not over. Things like this never are over. Lives are shattered; worlds change.

Tampa police officers Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis were killed, both shot in the head by Morris. The devastation to their families continues. Some continue to take grief counseling.

I even have heard it suggested that the entire Tampa Police Department has subtly changed. Certainly its officers are more cautious, maybe even less inclined to take chances. I don't know; that's just what I've heard.

And of course the story will continue. Morris is still alive. There is more suffering ahead; not just for Morris but for the friends and families who have to live with the scars and the world they were left with.

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The other, related story happened at Eighth Avenue and 19th Street in Ybor City.

It was the dedication of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office memorial at the Fallen Heroes Remembrance Park near the Malcolm E. Beard Sheriff's Operation Center.

Wrapped around a large sheriff's badge on a granite wall are the names and photographs of the 15 county deputies who have died in the line of duty. The names go back to 1878.

Kocab and Curtis have their names on the Tampa Police Memorial downtown. On that monument there is another long list of fallen officers and firefighters.

Law enforcement officers and their loved ones are a family unto itself. They are unified in a bond of shared support and the knowledge that theirs is a different world.

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Justice served?

In a technical sense the sentencing and eventual execution of Morris will carry out that belief that justice indeed has been rendered as much as possible.

Justice served does not, however, include an eye for an eye or anything else that can reconstruct the damage that has been done. It is irrevocable.

I wonder, if you were to ask Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee or Tampa police Chief Jane Castor if either one thought justice served ever was enough.

But we do our best. And the men and women who serve and take terrible risks will keep doing so.

Sometimes they will put the bad guys away only to have them back out on the streets again and again, and you can imagine how these law enforcement professionals feel about justice being served. There are never easy answers. We just should count our blessings that there still are good men and women willing to take those risks and do their best to seek justice.

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