Brian Dorsey Set To Be The First Person Executed By Missouri In 2024 On April 9

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With less than a week until Brian Dorsey is scheduled to be executed at Potosi correctional center in Missouri for the 2006 killings of his cousin and her husband, an extraordinary effort is underway to have the 52-year-old’s capital sentence commuted to life without parole.

More than 150 people have called on the Missouri governor Mike Parson to commute Dorsey’s punishment – including more than 70 current and former prison workers, many of whom got to know Dorsey behind bars, Republican state representatives, jurors and even the appeals judge who upheld Dorsey’s conviction and death sentence in 2009.

In an editorial for the Missouri Times last month, retired Missouri supreme court judge Michael Wolff wrote that he wished he’d had more information before making the decision with other jurists.

“In the case of Brian Dorsey, I now believe this is the rare case where we got it wrong,” Wolff wrote. “I am so convinced of our error that I have asked Governor Parson to grant clemency to Mr Dorsey.”

If Mr Dorsey is executed on April 9, it will dishonor our system of justice,” Wolff added, arguing that the appeals panel were unaware of how compromised Dorsey’s defense lawyers had been.

He wrote that a now disused system that was in place at the time – the state public defender system that paid Dorsey’s lawyers a flat fee – meant that the defendant hadn’t been adequately represented in the capital case.

Meanwhile, in a recent letter to the Kansas City Star news outlet, Timothy Lancaster, a former officer at Potosi, wrote that from his “perspective after decades in corrections, I do not hesitate to say that executing Brian Dorsey would be a pointless cruelty”.

Dozens of former and current Missouri department of corrections officers and prison staffers have written to Parson, the Star reported.

“We are part of the law enforcement community who believe in law and order,” the group wrote. “Generally, we believe in the use of capital punishment. But we are in agreement that the death penalty is not the appropriate punishment for Brian Dorsey.”

The letter describes how Dorsey stays out of trouble, is respectful toward officers and inmates, is housed in an “honor dorm” and is employed in the Potosi barber shop, where he cuts the hair of prisoners and officers.

Troy Steele, the former prison warden and a customer of Dorsey’s, has called him a “model inmate”.

Michelle Smith, co-director of Missourians to Abolish the Death Penalty, told St Louis Public Radio that support for Dorsey’s clemency from corrections officers is significant.

“This is something that is unprecedented because [the officers] also are putting themselves on the line with signing this letter,” she said. “This is truly extraordinary. And it goes to the character of Mr Dorsey … They truly believe that Brian deserves clemency and [that] he is not someone who should be facing execution.”

Dorsey’s current lawyers say he was in a drug-induced psychosis at the time of the killings. He had been in debt to his dealers and on the night of December 23, 2006, he was with his cousin, Sarah Bonnie, and her husband, Ben, in New Bloomfield, Missouri.

Dorsey killed his cousin and her husband with a shotgun, and left with cash, a car and other property to pay off his debts. After the couple were found two days later, Dorsey turned himself in to authorities and pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder.

Dorsey’s attorney Megan Crane wrote in a petition that her client had been incapable of deliberation – the requisite intent for capital murder – and that Dorsey had promptly taken full accountability for his actions.

Jenni Gerhauser, a cousin of the victim and the perpetrator, told USA Today that she supported the appeal for clemency. “We’re very much living in the middle of eye-for-an-eye country. But I wish people would understand it’s not that black-and-white,” Gerhauser said.

She said her cousin’s defense at trial was a “joke”.

Parson has never granted a request for clemency, according to the Star.

Andrew Bailey, the Missouri attorney general, said in a statement that his office wanted to enforce the laws as written, while also noting that Dorsey sexually assaulted Bonnie and there were other aggravating factors.