Dorsey appeals for life sentence for New Bloomfield killings

In his second attempt at an appeal, a Jefferson City man hopes to convert a pair of death sentences into life in prison.

Brian J. Dorsey pleaded guilty in 2008 to the Dec. 23, 2006, killings of his cousin, Sarah Bonnie, and her husband Ben, in their New Bloomfield home. Dorsey was sentenced to death for both first-degree murder charges.

Dorsey’s defense appealed those sentences Wednesday before the Missouri Supreme Court. In a previous 2012 appeal, the state Supreme Court upheld Dorsey’s two death sentences in a 7-0 vote.

The primary point made Wednesday by Dorsey’s current counsel — assistant public defender Kent Denzel — was that his client might not have received the death penalty had it not been for the allegation that he also raped his cousin.

Denzel contends Dorsey’s lawyers at the time — whom he claimed did not provide effective counsel — could have made a reasonable defense against the rape accusation had they had access to DNA evidence he claims was withheld.

“Our question for this court is whether it’s confidence in this verdict in this case has been undermined by the state’s deletion of certain evidence before it was disclosed,” Denzel said during Wednesday’s oral arguments.

“It’s important (because) the allegation of rape forms two of the four aggrevators in the murder of Sarah Bonnie — it was a critical part of the state’s case,” he said. “Because it was not disclosed, there was no way to challenge whether it was indeed a rape, or if Sarah and her husband had intercourse themselves.”

In his rebuttal during oral arguments Wednesday, Assistant State Attorney General Shaun Mackelprang said the state did not fail to disclose evidence, and that even if the claims about there being DNA present from someone other than Dorsey, it does not negate the presence of his genetic material, nor does it exclude the possibility he raped his cousin.

“In this case, all of the evidence does nothing to discount the fact that the Y chromosome profile could only have come from Mr. Dorsey and not any of the other males in the home the night of the murder,” Mackelprang said.

Mackelprang also argued the genetic material was not the only indication of rape. He said Bonnie’s body had been cleaned — noting there was clear evidence some sort of liquid had been poured over her torso and thighs — indicative of an attempted cover-up.

Faced with that evidence, Mackelprang said Dorsey’s defense decided — after he had already plead guilty to the murders — to stick to its strategy of admitting responsibility and pleading for mercy in the sentencing.

Other objections Denzel raised in his brief to prove the ineffectiveness of Dorsey’s original counsel:

•Failure to object to a juror in the sentencing trial — conducted in Boone County Circuit Court — who admitted to knowing one of the victims.

•Failure to investigate Dorsey’s mental health and substance-abuse history.

•Failure to object to evidence that Dorsey tried to cover up the rape.

Now that oral arguments have been made, there is no set time line for when the Supreme Court justices will make a decision in the case.

Beth Riggert, the supreme court’s communications counsel, said if the court votes to uphold the previous decision, it will become final unless Dorsey chooses to pursue the case at the federal level.

Riggert said if the court reverses the previous decision, the case would go back to the circuit court level for further proceedings.

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