TAMPA, Fla. - Convicted cop-killer Dontae Morris was back in court Monday, asking a judge to grant him a new trial.
Morris was sentenced to death for murdering Tampa police officers Jeffery Curtis and David Kocab during a traffic stop nine years ago.
Morris' attorneys began arguing their client didn't receive a fair trial. The first witness called to the stand Monday morning was Ashley Price, a key witness for the prosecution.
The defense is trying to convince a judge prosecutors persuaded Price to lie and say Morris confessed to her to potentially receive a lighter sentence in her own, unrelated case.
Prosecutors took aim at that suggestion.
"You were made an offer of five years’ probation [for your case], but you were never told that that was in exchange for your testimony, correct?" a prosecutor asked.
"No. No I was never told," Price said.
Morris' attorneys also plan to argue his previous representation was inadequate and jurors should not have seen portions of the dashboard camera video recording.
The hearing is bringing back bad memories for the families of the fallen officers, who declined an interview, but said they're doing "as well as can be expected."
Officers who were on the force nearly a decade ago are hopeful Morris' request will be denied.
"I feel sorry for the victims' families that have to come back here and go through this whole thing over and over again," said Julie Massucci, a retired Tampa police officer. "I sat through the original trial, the whole trial, and I thought it was an excellent trial. I thought his attorneys did an excellent job. When you have a jury that all of them voted to find him guilty, I don't see how you can possibly feel that you had an unfair trial."
Mayor Jane Castor, who was police chief at the time of the killings, doesn't think Morris stands a chance of receiving a new trial.
"He can avail himself to whatever appeals process he would like or file for a new trial, but the outcome will be the same," Castor said.
Massucci hopes Castor is right and that, one day, Morris will walk out of a courtroom for the last time.
"You can't move forward when this comes up every few years," Massucci added.
Morris' hearing is expected to last three or four days with the defense set to call a series of witnesses.