Missouri governor denies clemency to death row inmate who received support from guards

Photo of author

By journalsofus.com

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said Monday that he would not commute the death sentence of Brian Dorsey, who pleaded guilty to the 2006 murders of Ben and Sarah Bonnie and is scheduled to be executed Tuesday unless the courts intervene.

“The pain Dorsey caused others can never be rectified, but carrying out Dorsey’s sentence in accordance with Missouri law and the court’s order will do justice and provide closure,” said Parson, a Republican who previously served as sheriff.

Mr. Dorsey’s request for clemency was unusual because more than 70 current and former prison workers who knew Mr. Dorsey behind bars asked the governor to commute his sentence. They described Mr. Dorsey, 52, as a docile and respectful inmate who had earned the respect of officers and eventually became a barber for prison employees.

“The very concept of ‘corrections’ implies that we want incarcerated people to change their ways,” Timothy Lancaster, a former officer at the prison where Dorsey was held, wrote in a statement. recent column in The Kansas City Star. “Executing Dorsey would dishonor the hard work she has done to accomplish that goal.”

Dorsey is scheduled to be executed Tuesday. He has asked state and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, to intervene before the planned execution.

“Brian’s unprecedented support and irrefutable evidence of redemption are precisely the circumstances for which clemency is designed,” Megan Crane, Dorsey’s attorney, said in a statement. “Allowing Brian to be executed despite this truth is devastating.”

Some members of Mr. Dorsey’s family, including some who were also related to Ms. Bonnie, supported the clemency request. Other members of Bonnie’s family issued a statement in January saying they hoped the governor would allow the execution to take place.

“After all these years of pain and suffering, we finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” those relatives said in the statement, which was reported by local media. “Brian will get the justice that Sarah and Ben have deserved for so long.”

Missouri has carried out 97 executions since 1976, classification only behind Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia and Florida. Parson has not blocked an execution since he took office in 2018, although he has granted pardons or commuted sentences for hundreds of people convicted of less serious crimes.

Missouri officials say Dorsey was having trouble with drug dealers in December 2006 and had sought help from his cousin and her husband. The Bonnies invited Mr. Dorsey to spend the night at their home near New Bloomfield, Missouri, in the central part of the state. After the couple went to bed that night, authorities said, Dorsey grabbed a shotgun and fatally shot each of them. Prosecutors also said Dorsey sexually assaulted Bonnie, although he was never charged with that crime. The sexual assault allegation was raised at Mr. Dorsey’s sentencing; Dorsey’s attorneys say he had no memory of being sexually assaulted.

Dorsey, whose current attorneys say he was suffering from drug-induced psychosis at the time of the murders, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder. He was subsequently sentenced to death.

Death notices and news articles A report published at the time of the murders said that 28-year-old Bonnie was an auto mechanic who enjoyed fishing, hunting and camping. Ms. Bonnie, 25, was an emergency medical technician who had worked in local government, belonged to a Methodist church, and rode motorcycles. The couple had a 4-year-old daughter who was in the home but was not physically harmed.

In his clemency request to the governor, Dorsey argued that he had received poor advice from court-appointed attorneys who received a flat fee to handle his case and who did little to explore potential mitigating factors or plea deals. Dorsey pleaded guilty without any agreement with prosecutors on sentencing. One of the attorneys who represented Mr. Dorsey at that stage of his case declined to comment, and the other did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Ernesto Londono contributed with reports.

Leave a comment