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Missouri Supreme Court declines to halt execution of man who killed couple in 2006

The Missouri Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to halt the execution of Brian Dorsey, who is scheduled to die by lethal injection next month for killing his cousin and her husband 18 years ago.

Judge W. Brent Powell wrote in the unanimous decision that Dorsey "has not demonstrated he is actually innocent" of the first-degree murder convictions that brought him to death row, despite previously pleading guilty to those charges and failing to deny that he committed the crimes. Powell rejected the prisoner's suggestion in his recent petitions that "he was incapable of deliberation" at the time the murders were carried out "due to drug-induced psychosis," and also wrote that the state Supreme Court previously turned aside Dorsey's claim that his trial lawyer was ineffective, and he is barred from raising that claim again.

Dorsey had tried to argue his innocence on the grounds that he "lacked the mental state to commit the offense" at the time of the killing, which would call into question the premeditation and willfulness that are prerequisites for a first-degree murder conviction.

"Dorsey generally alleges that, at the time of the murders, he had not slept for more than 72 hours, was intoxicated from beer and vodka, was suicidal, had major depression and a substance abuse disorder, and was withdrawing from crack cocaine, which routinely caused him to experience hallucinations and paranoid delusions," Powell noted in the decision. 

But the court found that Dorsey did not provide enough evidence to "make a clear and convincing showing of his innocence," the decision said.

Dorsey's attorney, Megan Crane, said he would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"The Missouri Supreme Court's refusal today to even consider the merits of the Brian's Dorsey's critical Sixth Amendment constitutional claim — that his lawyers pleaded their client guilty for no benefit, with the death penalty still on the table, without conducting any investigation, as a result of the low flat fee they were paid by the Missouri Public Defender System — is yet another example of how our legal system has failed him," Crane said in a statement. "We will appeal to the United States Supreme Court and ask that Governor Parson consider this injustice in our plea for mercy for Brian."

Missouri Execution Dorsey
This undated booking photo provided by the Missouri Department of Corrections shows Brian Dorsey. Missouri Department of Corrections via AP, File

Dorsey is scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. on April 9 at the state prison in Bonne Terre. It would be Missouri's first execution in 2024 after four people were put to death last year. Another Missouri inmate, David Hosier, faces execution June 11 for killing a Jefferson City woman in 2009.

Dorsey, who turns 52 on Thursday, was convicted of fatally shooting Sarah and Ben Bonnie on Dec. 23, 2006, at their home near New Bloomfield. Prosecutors said that earlier that day, Dorsey had called Sarah Bonnie seeking to borrow money to pay two drug dealers who were at his apartment.

Sarah Bonnie's parents found the bodies the next day. The couple's 4-year-old daughter was unhurt.

Despite the allegations of "drug-induced psychosis" outlined in Dorsey's appeal, Powell wrote that attorneys for the state cited "significant evidence" of premeditation involved in the murders.

Dorsey pleaded guilty in 2008, but he later claimed he should have instead been sentenced to life in prison without parole. The Missouri Supreme Court first upheld the death sentence in 2010 and again in 2014.

In January, a group of 60 officers and other staff at the Missouri Department of Corrections sent a letter to Governor Mike Parson, on Dorsey's behalf, asking the governor to grant him clemency, CBS affiliate KRCG reported. They sought a commuted sentence to life imprisonment without parole, and described Dorsey as a "model inmate" who "has stayed out of trouble, never gotten himself into any situations, and been respectful of us and of his fellow inmates."

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