Gossip is derailing a high-profile court case. The judge in the Dontae Morris murder trial angrily dismissed all of the would-be jurors this morning.
Morris is accused of killing two Tampa police officers, Jeffrey Kocab and Dave Curtis, during a traffic stop. But this trial is for the murder of Rodney Jones, who was killed outside a nightclub in 2010.
The defense said some potential jurors were overheard talking about Morris.
As court convened this morning, Judge William Fuente reprimanded the potential jurors who violated his order not to discuss the case.
"If you're a juror who violated my order, you should be ashamed of yourself. Not proud. Because your actions caused this situation. You violated your solemn oath you gave to us on Monday morning," he said.
Rodney Jones' sister, Daphne Stephens, said she's disappointed. But she's hopeful the attorneys will still be able to get an impartial jury in Hillsborough County.
She was surprised some of the potential jurors disregarded the judge's order.
"I think they don't realize the scope of it. I would say to people who find themselves on a panel, I ask you would have some self control. Show a little discretion. On the surface it may seem like you're not doing much. But you have no idea how many lives you are affecting. And the heading you're delaying."
April Peterson was one of the excused jurors. She was not involved in the misconduct and said she never heard anyone talking inappropriately. But she reacted to those who did talk when they shouldn't have.
"It was unfair. It was a disregard to the rules. A blatant disregard to the court system. It wasted a lot of time, money."
Attorneys will now have to pick from another 200-member jury pool.
No date has been set for a retrial. But this now delays the other three trials against Dontae Morris.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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