Texts, calls cited in Dontae Morris murder trial - FOX 13 News

Texts, calls cited in Dontae Morris murder trial

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

We heard from Dontae Morris himself during the first day of his trial. Morris, in this case, is on trial for the murder of 42-year-old Rodney Jones. He's accused of five murders in all, all from 2010.

On Monday, prosecutors played a phone call from Dontae to his brother. Dontae made the call from jail, which was recorded.

"I need you to make a few moves for me," said Morris.

His brother replies, "No problem, no problem."

He told his brother he wanted to talk to Ashley Price, a woman who apparently told police Morris confessed to her about murdering Jones.

"Do you know why I want to talk to you?" Morris asked.

"Yeah," Price replied. "The detective said something about a written statement."

Morris asked, "Why you talking like that?"

He told Price he wanted her to come visit him in jail and they scheduled her to come the next day at 3 p.m.

Earlier in court Monday, prosecutors told the jury that Dontae Morris sat outside the Cotton Club on May 31, 2010, waiting for Rodney Jones to leave.

"As Mr. Jones left the club, as he walked to his car, this defendant was also outside the club. And he was watching and waiting."

Prosecutors alluded to the fact that Morris had a vengeance against Jones for some previous robbery.

The night of the shooting, Gerald Coleman was a DJ at the Cotton Club. He knew Rodney Jones as a regular. He knew him by his nickname Scarface.

He took the stand and told the jury, at closing time, a woman ran in and said two men were robbing Scarface. He ran out to see Jones try to fight back.

"When he turned to look, Scarface did his elbow like this [showing the jury, Jones tried to elbow his attacker.]" Coleman continued. "The guy just fired a shot; you could see the firing of the gun."

Prosecutors say Dontae Morris started texting within an hour after the shooting. He sent texts to his girlfriend, Cortnee Brantley. Prosecutors say it was an attempt to set up an alibi.

"In the text message: 'Listen, if anything foolish happens, you and me spent the night in Palm River,'" explained Prosecutor Scott Harmon.

But all day, none of the witnesses at the club could say Dontae Morris was the shooter. There were several people who said they saw two men next to Jones that night.

"We believe the evidence does not show beyond a reasonable doubt that Dontae Morris was responsible," said Bryon Hileman, Morris' attorney.

But Deputy Ruben Clemente said he overheard Morris talking in his cell. Clemente is a jail guard at the Falkenburg Road jail and said, in November of 2011 -- more than a year after the shooting -- he observed Morris for a four-hour time period.

"He said, 'I repent for killing,'" Clemente testified.

The defense quickly jumped on that, saying Morris never said the name Rodney Jones, never mentioned the Cotton Club, or May 31, 2010.

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