In the mayhem of a murder trial, we can find justice

I have had the unfortunate experience of seeing the dashcam video of the murders of Officer Jeffrey Kocab and Officer David Curtis. Nauseating, irrefutable, this case presents the defense with an unwinnable scenario: not one, but two murders of law enforcement officers captured on video. The killer will undoubtedly be convicted in a case that may set the record for the fastest conviction in Tampa’s history. In the swirl of publicity that envelopes this murder trial, we as a community must never lose focus of the justice system that Officer Kocab and Officer Curtis served – the justice system for which they gave their lives.

This disturbing case teaches us as a society that justice must be allowed its slow and cumbersome course, and that we need to trust that the justice system works. Only when we are assured that justice has been served, can we be at peace with the verdict and with the sentence.

As a criminal defense attorney, I worry about the dark tone of vengeance and bloodthirst I read in public comments posted in response to news stories about this case, and most criminal cases. I worry because those members of the public may one day be members of a jury, a jury so filled with blind hatred that it may convict a defendant at any cost, even if that defendant is innocent.

Even innocent people charged with crimes they did not commit face conviction by a jury blinded by vengeance. As a society, only our belief that people have the right to a fair trial before an untainted pool of jurors reaffirms our faith in the justice system, a faith that I hope is stronger than our bloodlust for revenge.

The trial of the alleged murderer Dontae Morris begs for a sober moment in Tampa Bay. There are not enough words to describe the incredible loss that Officer Kocab’s and Officer Curtis’ families, friends, and countless fellow law enforcement offers have suffered and will continue to suffer even after this trial is over.

If there is any comfort for the victims, we as a community should reaffirm our commitment to the justice system these officers served with their lives. They deserve justice, and not the senseless street-side killing their fellow officers fight to protect us from every day.

Only when we respect the justice system that these two officers honored with their lives, will justice truly be served. When we are called to duty to serve on a jury to judge our peers, we should serve with the same honor that these two officers served.

Then, and only then, will we know that the judicial process has worked, because we have helped it work. Then and only then, when the ultimate penalty is imposed, can we collectively rest with a clean conscience. Then and only then, can we find justice in the mayhem of a murder trial.

Author: Joe Bodiford

Tallahassee criminal defense attorney. Florida Bar Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer, Nationally Board Certified in Criminal Trial Advocacy, and AV* rated by Martindale-Hubbell. Former adjunct professor of law and co-director of the Trial Team at Florida State University College of Law; former adjunct professor of law at Stetson University College of Law (Florida criminal procedure, Trial Advocacy). Curator of Advocacy Underground. Practicing in the area of State and Federal Criminal Trial and Appeals. Visit us at!