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Missouri Governor Denies Clemency for Death Row Inmate Who Got Support From Guards

Missouri Governor Mike Parson said Monday 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 do not ‘intervene.

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

Mr. Dorsey’s request for clemency was unusual because more than 70 current and former prison employees 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, eventually becoming a barber for prison employees.

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

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

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

Some members of Mr. Dorsey’s family, some of whom were also related to Ms. Bonnie, supported the request for clemency. Other members of Ms. Bonnie’s family issued a statement in January hoping the governor would authorize the execution.

“After all these years of pain and suffering, we finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” these relatives said in a statement 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, behind Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia and Florida. Mr. Parson has not blocked an execution since he took office in 2018, although he has granted pardons or commuted sentences to hundreds of people convicted of less serious crimes.

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

Mr. Dorsey, who current lawyers say was suffering from a drug-induced psychosis at the time of the killings, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder. He was later sentenced to death.

Obituaries and news articles published at the time of the killings indicated that Mr. Bonnie, 28, 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 request for clemency to the governor, Mr. Dorsey argued that he received bad advice from court-appointed lawyers who were paid flat fees to argue his case and did not do much -thing to explore possible mitigating circumstances or plea deals. Mr. Dorsey pleaded guilty without any agreement with prosecutors regarding the sentence. One of the lawyers who represented Mr. Dorsey at this stage of his case declined to comment and the other did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Ernesto Londono reports contributed.

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