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Former Judge and Numerous Prison Guards Advocate for Clemency in Missouri Execution Case

_St. Louis_— The imminent fate of a Missouri man who was found guilty of murdering his cousin and her husband almost twenty years ago seems to be in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court as the hours tick down to the scheduled execution.

Brian Dorsey, aged 52, is set to face lethal injection on Tuesday night at the Bonne Terre state prison. Governor Mike Parson took action on Monday, and currently, two appeals are awaiting consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court. One of the appeals highlights Dorsey’s positive conduct during his time in prison.

The second appeal argues that his life should be spared due to a conflict of interest involving his trial attorneys. The defense attorneys, who were public defenders, were paid a flat fee of $12,000, which did not incentivize them to dedicate significant time to his case, as stated in the appeal. Despite lacking an agreement with prosecutors for leniency on the death penalty, Dorsey pleaded guilty based on their advice.

Dorsey is poised to become the first person in Missouri to be executed this year following four executions in 2023. Another individual, David Hosier, is slated for execution on June 11 for the murder of a woman in Jefferson City in 2009. Nationally, four men have been executed in 2024, one each in Alabama, Texas, Georgia, and Oklahoma.

Details of Dorsey’s Crimes

Dorsey, previously residing in Jefferson City, was convicted of the murders of Sarah and Ben Bonnie on December 23, 2006, at their residence near New Bloomfield. Prosecutors revealed that earlier on the same day, Dorsey contacted Sarah Bonnie to request money to settle a debt with two drug dealers who were present at his apartment.

Later that evening, Dorsey visited the Bonnie household. Once the couple was asleep, he retrieved a shotgun from the garage and fatally shot them both before committing a heinous act on Sarah Bonnie’s body, according to prosecutors. Subsequently, Dorsey stole various items from the residence, attempting to use some of the stolen goods to repay a drug debt.

Following the tragic events, Sarah Bonnie’s parents visited the Bonnie residence the next day after they failed to attend a family gathering. They discovered the couple’s 4-year-old daughter watching TV on the couch. The young girl informed her grandparents that her mother was unresponsive.

Three days post the murders, Dorsey turned himself in to the authorities.

Advocates for Dorsey’s Cause

Dorsey’s legal representatives asserted that he was experiencing drug-induced psychosis at the time of the offense. They also mentioned his rehabilitation and sobriety while in prison.

Megan Crane, one of Dorsey’s attorneys, criticized Governor Parson’s decision, stating, “Governor Parson has chosen to ignore the wealth of information before him showing that Brian Dorsey is uniquely deserving of mercy.” She added, “Brian has spent every day of his time in prison trying to make amends for his crime, and dozens of correctional officers have attested to his remorse, transformation, and commitment to service.”

Several correctional officers provided testimony supporting Dorsey’s reformation.

One officer expressed in a clemency petition, “The Brian I have known for years could not hurt anyone. The Brian I know does not deserve to be executed.”

Former Missouri Supreme Court Justice Michael Wolff, in a letter included in the clemency plea, acknowledged being part of the court that rejected an appeal of Dorsey’s death sentence in 2009. However, he now believes that decision was erroneous.

Wolff highlighted, “Missouri Public Defenders now do not use the flat fee for defense in recognition of the professional standard that such an arrangement gives the attorney an inherent financial conflict of interest.”

Queries on the Execution Process

Dorsey’s impending execution has sparked concerns regarding Missouri’s protocol, which does not specify the use of anesthetics. Dorsey’s legal team described him as obese, diabetic, and a former intravenous drug user, factors that could complicate the administration of the lethal drug through injection. In cases where vein access is challenging, a cutdown procedure might be necessary.

A cutdown involves making an incision and using forceps to expose a vein. A federal lawsuit filed on Dorsey’s behalf argued that without local anesthesia, the pain experienced could infringe on his religious rights by hindering meaningful interaction with his spiritual advisor, including the performance of last rites.

A settlement was reached on Saturday, where the state agreed to take unspecified measures to mitigate the risk of extreme pain during the execution. However, the specifics of the changes, including the availability of anesthetics, were not explicitly outlined in the settlement agreement.