Man, accused of running over family, settles on private attorney

The man accused of running down a Tampa man and his kids was back in court Friday as a judge tried to settle some confusion over lawyers.

Public defender Mike Peacock told the judge that, when he talked to Mikese Morse recently, Morse said he wanted the public defender to stay on the case.  But then private attorney James Smith said Morse wanted him.

The public defender also reminded the judge that Morse has a history of mental illness and may say one thing one minute, then change his mind the next minute, so the judge brought in the defendant to get his final answer on the record.

Morse told the judge that he wanted Smith to take his case, so with that, his new attorney asked for the bond hearing scheduled for today to be pushed back so he has more time to prepare. The judge agreed, and Morse was then escorted out of the courtroom.

Outside the courtroom, Morse’s parents talked about how hard they've struggled to get their son the mental health he needs.   

“We’re thrilled that he’s decided to go with attorney Smith because we feel like this situation is all about the failures of our mental health system. And I’m so appalled that we had to fight just to get private counsel for our son when it makes no sense that, here, the public defender’s office is willing to allocate taxpayer dollars to defend our son when we couldn’t get taxpayer dollars to help him to prevent his situation,” Khadeeja Morse sobbed.

Morse is accused of intentionally running over and killing a father biking with his sons. Two weeks before the fatal hit-and-run crash, he walked into to a Tampa police substation and claimed he would hurt someone if he was allowed to leave.  The officer had Morse Baker-Acted, and while he was being involuntarily detained, records show he attacked his public defender. 

Shortly after that, he was released -- to his parents’ disappointment.

Morse's new attorney says his client fell through the mental health cracks.  "The state was on notice several weeks ago this was an individual who had serious mental health issues, and unfortunately he wasn't provided with the appropriate treatment. And tragically this is a theme that we hear time and time again," offered Smith.