Dontae Morris got his day in court because we don’t sanction vigilante justice in this country. Because of that, society sent him to a court of law and gave him more of a chance than he gave Tampa police officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab.
So it was in a Tampa court room that a jury confirmed what we already knew: Morris is a murdering scumbag.
That same jury will hear arguments today about whether he should be put to death or have additional life-without-parole sentences tacked on to the one another jury gave him earlier this year in a different case.
I won’t presume to do this jury’s work. Even when considering the fate of a psychopath like Morris, the decision to impose the death penalty can’t come easily for civilized people.
Whatever jurors decide, we can take comfort that Morris will never again walk free. His best hope is to live out his vile existence in a maximum-security prison. Our best hope is that when this is all over, we never have to see his face again.
If he is sentenced to die, his home will be a 6-by-9 cell with no air conditioning for 23 1/2 hours per day. He won’t get to hang out with other inmates because Death Row residents aren’t allowed to be together in a common room.
Inmates can have a radio and a 13-inch TV, but no cable. They are counted at least once an hour. They are handcuffed whenever they are out of the cell. The Florida Department of Corrections says inmates wait an average of 13.22 years before execution, but no matter how long someone is on Death Row it’s a miserable existence with little to do but think.
We rightly reserve special scorn for anyone who murders a police officer. Cops place their lives in peril with every traffic stop, such as the one officers Curtis and Kocab performed at 2:11 a.m. on June 29, 2010.
Curtis stopped a 1994 Toyota Camry driven by Morris’ girlfriend, Cortnee Brantley, because it didn’t have a license plate. Morris was in the front seat. The officers discovered there was an arrest warrant for Morris, so he shot them and left them to die by the side of the road.
The evidence of his guilt was so overwhelming, his attorney didn’t call any witnesses or present evidence on his behalf. The defense’s main argument seemed to be a vague “they got the wrong guy” approach.
No, they didn’t.
They got the right guy, and when the jury found him guilty Friday night it was a cleansing moment for everyone in our city – especially for the widows of his victims. They were eloquent, strong and the epitome of grace in the face of the monstrous evil who sat just a few yards away from them during the trial.
Because we are a nation of laws, a lawless man received a fair trial. His punishment won’t heal broken families or bring two slain officers back, but it will be decided in accordance with the law.
Then he will go away for good, and we will be done with him.
That day can’t come soon enough.