Brian Dorsey executed in Missouri despite pleas from 72 corrections officers

Brian Dorsey executed in Missouri despite pleas from 72 corrections officers

The state of Missouri has executed Brian Dorsey, 52, for the 2006 double murder of his cousin Sarah and her husband Ben Bonnie.

In recent months, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, former and current prison workers, and some family members of the victims pushed for Dorsey’s death sentence to be downgraded.

The Missouri inmate was pronounced dead at 6.11pm on Tuesday.

“To all of the family and loved ones I share with Sarah and to all of the surviving family and loved ones of Ben, I am truly, deeply, overwhelmingly sorry,” Dorsey wrote in his final statement, obtained by the Kansas City Star. “Words cannot hold the just weight of my guilt and shame...To all those on all sides of this sentence, I carry no ill will or anger, only acceptance and understanding.”

He was served a final meal of cheeseburgers, chicken strips, fries, and pizza, according to the paper.

Some family members of the victims opposed the execution, while others supported it.

One group said in a statement prior to the execution that the death sentence represented “the light at the end of the tunnel” after “years of pain and suffering.”

Activists condemned the execution.

“We hold in our hearts each and every person who is affected by this execution,” the Catholic Mobilizing Network said on Tuesday on X. “We will tirelessly pursue a justice that promotes the dignity of all people.”

On Tuesday morning, the US Supreme Court on Tuesday declined Dorsey’s appeal in the case with no noted dissents, clearing the final obstacle to the execution.

Dorsey was sentenced to death for the 23 December 2006 killing, a punishment later affirmed in appeals to courts at the state, federal, and US Supreme Court levels.

Sarah and Ben Bonnie invited Dorsey into their home for the night in New Bloomfield, Missouri, during a period when Dorsey feared a group of drug dealers was pursuing him to collect on a debt, according to the Missouri Attorney General’s Office.

Prosecutors also allege that after Dorsey killed them, he sexually assaulted Sarah and poured bleach on her, though these allegations weren’t fully considered in court because Dorsey pleaded guilty. Dorsey turned himself in to the police.

Once in prison, he began appealing his death sentence, arguing he received flawed original legal representation, violating his 6th Amendment right to effective counsel.

According to advocates, Dorsey’s original attorneys failed to bring forward key pieces of evidence, a potential result of being paid a $12,000 flat fee each to defend him, a practice legal observers say can encourage hasty resolutions of capital cases, which can last years.

The Missouri man’s original attorneys didn’t disclose Mr Dorsey’s claim to have been in a drug-induced state of psychosis during the murders and didn’t investigate or present his past struggles with mental health, which included a major depression diagnosis and seeking inpatient treatment, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The original lawyers also negotiated a guilty plea deal that didn’t include any assurances about what sentence Dorsey would receive.

The practice of paying flat fees in capital cases has long been considered “improper” by the American Bar Association because of its potential to “discourage lawyers from doing more than what is minimally necessary.”

In a March letter to the governor, Michael Wolff, a former Missouri Supreme Court judge who once upheld Dorsey’s death sentence, said this was one “rare cases where those of us who sit in judgment of a man convicted of capital murder got it wrong” and added that the flat fee arrangement, which Missouri has since ceased to use, “undoubtedly influenced everything.”

When contacted by The Independent, his original attorneys, Chris Slusher and Scott McBride, declined to comment on the case.

A group of more than 70 current and former corrections officers joined in calls for the man’s death sentence to be changed.

In prison, according to correctional staff, Dorsey didn’t have any infractions and became a trusted barber for inmates and staff members alike.

“Generally, we believe in the use of capital punishment,” the officers previously wrote the governor. “But we are in agreement that the death penalty is not the appropriate punishment for Brian Dorsey.”

The day before the execution, Missouri governor Michael Parson denied Dorsey’s petition for clemency.

“The pain Dorsey brought to others can never be rectified, but carrying out Dorsey’s sentence according to Missouri law and the Court’s order will deliver justice and provide closure,” Governor Parson, a former sheriff who hasn’t blocked an execution since taking office in 2018, wrote in a statement accompanying the decision.

Missouri executes more people than almost all other US states. In addition to Dorsey’s killing, the state has executed 97 people since 1976, trailing only Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Florida, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Last year, it was one of only five states to carry out executions, killing four people.

The Independent and the nonprofit Responsible Business Initiative for Justice (RBIJ) have launched a joint campaign calling for an end to the death penalty in the US. The RBIJ has attracted more than 150 well-known signatories to their Business Leaders Declaration Against the Death Penalty - with The Independent as the latest on the list. We join high-profile executives like Ariana Huffington, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson as part of this initiative and are making a pledge to highlight the injustices of the death penalty in our coverage.