Dontae Morris trial starts in Tampa - WFLA News Channel 8

Dontae Morris trial for murder of Rodney Jones starts in Tampa

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TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

Dontae Morris is on trial in a Tampa courtroom for the murder of Rodney Jones in May of 2010.   The murder happened outside of the Cotton club as people were leaving from a night of fun and singing.   Prosecutors say Morris was out for revenge that night and killed Jones during a robbery.

Assistant State Attorney Scott Harmon says Morris was also out to settle an old score with Jones and was looking for him that night.  Harmon told jurors," You will see from the evidence in this case, this wasn't just an attempted robbery, this wasn't just an attempt to rob Rodney Jones, this was premeditated murder."  Harmon says Jones was flashing a lot of cash that night in the Cotton Club and Morris noticed.

During the first day of testimony in the case witnesses told jurors, they noticed Morris at the Cotton Club that night because he stood out in the crowd.  High School teacher Linda Johnson says she noticed Rodney Jones because he was holding a large wad of cash.

Johnson says when she went outside, she heard gunfire and saw people running.  Morris's defense attorney says even though people saw his client at the Cotton Club, none of them can say they saw Morris kill Jones that night.

Defense attorney Byron Hileman told jurors, "None of them could say that they saw and could identify who shot and killed Rodney Jones."  The state says Morris texted a girlfriend after the murder to try and establish an alibi.  Jurors are expected to see those texts during the course of the trial.

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