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Cortnee Brantley case declared a mistrial

8:37 PM, Jul 18, 2012   |    comments
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Cortnee Brantley (center) arrives in court for her federal trial.
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TAMPA, Florida - The jury took more time talking about the testimony than it took to present it, but after about nine hours of deliberations, the panel could not come to a verdict in the federal trial of Cortnee Brantley.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Judge James Moody thanked the eight women and four men for their service and declared a mistrial.

In June 2010, Brantley was driving the car on the morning two Tampa police officers, David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab, were shot and killed. Her former boyfriend, Dontae Morris, has a murder trial pending.

The key piece of evidence in Brantley's case was dash-cam video of the killings, which jurors watched in grim silence.

But Brantley was not charged directly with the murders. Instead, she was charged with misprison of felony, an obscure and rarely used federal statute. Basically, prosecutors said she hid information about the gun and ammunition Morris, a convicted felon, allegedly used in the crime.

But simply remaining silent is not a crime and that's why former federal prosecutor John Fitzgibbons says, from the very beginning, this was a difficult case for the government to bring and win.

"It's a very controversial statue, because it clashes with the 5th Amendment," explains Fitzgibbons. "In the sense that if you report something, because you were there or a participant, you could be a conspirator, you could incriminate yourself. So it's really a complex, controversial statute."

And those were most likely some of the issues jurors struggled with during their deliberations. A male member of the jury leaving the court house declined to comment or give the numerical breakdown of the deadlock.

Prosecutor James Preston also declined to comment on the mistrial. He must now decide whether to retry the case or let charges against Brantley drop. Preston told the judge the court would have that decision on Monday.

Because the cloud of a possible retrial still hangs over his client, defense attorney Grady Irvin also had little to say. "I just don't think this is an appropriate time for me to comment about this case. This case is not over as of yet," he said. "But I want to thank the jurors who certainly took their time."

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