Crime & Courts
Deputy says Morris repented; defense wants comments excluded
The man accused of gunning down two Tampa police officers told a Hillsborough County Jail deputy that he has repented for those and other killings he committed, according to Hillsborough County court documents.
In one November 2011 statement written down by a sheriff’s detention deputy, Dontae Morris said, “Someone put something on me to kill those people. Someone stole my soul.”
The deputy said he also heard Morris say, “I shot the white guy because my girlfriend … put something on me,” according to court records.
He also said he was repenting for murdering five people, the deputy told investigators.
“Jesus is coming for me, and I appreciate it,” Morris said, according to court documents.
But Valerie McClain, a psychologist retained by Morris’ defense, said in the court documents that Morris is suffering from “major depression.” She said he has been demonstrating psychotic behavior and that his statements shouldn’t be viewed as a confession.
The defense is asking that Morris’ statements be excluded from evidence presented during his capital murder trial, which is scheduled for this fall.
Morris was under suicide watch at the time the statements were made in November 2011, according to court records.
McClain examined the notes on Morris that the jail deputies wrote in a log and met with Morris on three separate occasions in 2012. She noted that Morris’ mother had said that her son was hearing voices while in prison.
“Dr. McClain’s opinion is that due (to) the irrational and bizarre behavior observed by the family at visitations just prior to the suicide watch and the observations of the Corrections Officers over more than a week, that the Defendant was in a transient psychotic state and his statements therefore lack reliability,” Morris’ defense attorneys wrote in their argument for the court.
The defense is asking Circuit Judge William Fuente to dismiss from evidence any notes or testimony from jail deputies about Morris’ statements. Allowing that information into evidence could lead to “danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, misleading the jury and would serve only to inflame the jury,” defense attorneys wrote.
“He was delusional and in an extremely agitated state,” his attorneys wrote in their request to have the evidence excluded. “He describes his fears that the deputies plan to rape and kill him. He paces in his cell and talks to himself in an undeniably irrational manner.”
Morris is scheduled to go to trial Nov. 4 in the slayings of Tampa Officers Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis, who were shot to death after making a traffic stop on a car in which Morris was a passenger. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty for the June 29, 2010, killings.
In March, Morris was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Rodney Jones outside a West Tampa nightclub. Jones’ murder was about a month before Morris is accused of killing the two officers. Morris also is accused of two other unrelated murders.
During a deposition of McLain, investigators asked the psychologist whether Morris’ statements might have been a genuine expression of repentance. McLain said she didn’t think Morris was in a sound mental state when he made the statements.
“I think there’s a difference between a repentant state … that’s of a rational mind as opposed to someone who’s under observations in a psych unit,” McLain said.
Kate Caldwell of News Channel 8 contributed to this report.