Dontae Morris ruled competent to proceed in trials - WFLA News Channel 8

Dontae Morris ruled competent to proceed in trials

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By Elaine Silvestrini

A judge ruled Friday morning that Dontae Morris, who is charged in the slayings of two Tampa police officers and three other men, is competent to proceed in his trials.

Morris is scheduled to go on trial July 30 in the 2010 fatal shooting of Rodney G. Jones, 42, outside a Tampa nightclub.

That slaying occurred a month before officers Dave Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab were killed during a traffic stop in east Tampa. Morris faces first-degree murder charges in those June 29, 2010, slayings.

In April, upon request from defense attorneys, Circuit Judge William Fuente appointed two experts to evaluate whether Morris was mentally competent to stand trial.

In the defense's initial request, attorney Byron Hileman told Fuente there was no issue about whether Morris was legally competent at the time of the killings but that he had concerns about whether the defendant is competent to proceed in court.

Attorneys said in a court filing in February that they have "reason in good faith to believe that the defendant is not mentally competent to proceed to trial."

They wrote that Morris has "repeatedly exhibited behaviors … which may indicate symptoms of a psychotic or dissociative state, and/or some other form of mental illness causing a serious thought and perceptual disturbance or deficit."

These behaviors, the attorneys wrote, interfere with Morris' ability to communicate with them and assist them in the preparation of his defense.

Fuente appointed two doctors from a court list of available mental health experts. Both experts concluded Morris is competent, attorneys said Friday.

Morris also is facing first-degree murder charges in the June 8, 2010, shooting of Harold Wright, 25, and the May 18, 2010, slaying of Derek Anderson, 21, in what police said was an attempted robbery.

Police said the same gun was used in the killings of Curtis, Kocab and Anderson. The same caliber bullet was used in the killing of Jones, but ballistics tests were inconclusive as to whether the gun was the same.

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