Dorsey Emotional as He Takes the Stand in His Own Defense


YoloCourt-26By Julienne Correa and Sarah Senan

“There were signs that he was sick and I didn’t pay attention.” Darnell Dorsey testified at his own trial, full of emotion and regrets at not “being there” for his girlfriend’s toddler.

On October 24, 2016, Judge Paul Richardson presided over the resumption of the trial of the People v. Darnell Dorsey. Mr. Dorsey has been charged with assaulting and causing fatal injury to his girlfriend’s 20-month-old son, Cameron Morrison, in January of 2014. Deputy Public Defenders Martha Sequeira and Joseph Gocke represent Darnell Dorsey, and Deputy District Attorney Michelle Serafin represents the People.

The defense called Darnell Dorsey to the stand. Ms. Sequiera began by asking if Mr. Dorsey brutally assaulted Cameron Morrison, kicking him in the abdomen and punching him. Dorsey answered no. He had never testified in court before. He was asked about his first meeting with Cameron’s mother. They met on the bus to Sacramento, where she introduced herself. He lived in Davis with his mother and half-sisters.

“VR,” Cameron’s mother, and Dorsey started off as friends, then later had a sexual relationship. Four or five months after their meeting, he started school at Davis High. According to Dorsey, they were always good friends, never in a relationship with each other, but dated others. She became pregnant with Dorsey’s son, “J,” but she told Dorsey at the time that she was not sure if he was the father. At 17, he did not want the responsibility and told her that she needed to figure it out on her own.

After J was born, Dorsey moved to Sacramento to live on his own, and he developed another relationship with a woman who claimed she was pregnant with his child. The same woman forbade him to have any relations with VR, resulting in loss of contact.  Eventually she told him that the child was not his, however, he was extremely involved with her life when he thought that the girl was his child. The child was born prematurely, due to the mother’s drug use, and he visited the child every day she was in the hospital.

In July of 2012, Dorsey moved to another apartment complex near the Arden Fair mall. He still did not try to re-establish a relationship with VR. After she had Cameron in 2013, Dorsey figured that J was his child, due to resemblances in pictures seen on Facebook. However, when he tried to see the child, he got involved in a verbal altercation with “JM,” Cameron’s biological father. He then filed paperwork and went through the court process to be able to see J.

VR and JM broke up, which gave Dorsey the opportunity to reconnect with his family. In the beginning he was only focused on building a relationship with J, but eventually he built a family with VR and Cameron as well. They would go to the park, go out to eat, and then go to the zoo. However, JM was uncooperative with the sharing of custody of Cameron.

In May of 2013, they moved into a trailer when Dorsey decided to move back to Davis because of financial instability. He wanted to go back to school to prove himself, after gaining a criminal record when he was 17 years old. To provide for himself and family, he sold weed, and he said that caring for his family gave him something to strive for. He said that he enjoyed being with the children and never became too frustrated with them.

The court took recess, and afterwards the defense continued to direct examine Mr. Dorsey. About his record, he was convicted of assault after he fought with his roommate, over the roommate attacking another friend and sexually assaulting a girl at a party Dorsey hosted.  After a quick explanation, the defense asked him about what happened the day the incident with Cameron occurred. According to Dorsey, everyone was sick, including both boys, and Cameron showed signs of not eating and making weird noises. He picked up the boys from VR’s family, and then put them down for a nap. He was frustrated that day due to financial concerns with VR and over the boys making a mess of themselves. In addition, he was also sick and used NyQuil and smoked some weed.

The night of the incident, he was in the room smoking weed after putting J to bed and waiting for Cameron to be done eating. He found Cameron lying on the floor and tried to wake him up. He splashed water on his face, patted his face, and called out his name. Later, when VR came home, he handed her Cameron and he took J with him. He followed them to the hospital and felt guilty for being high and smoking weed. He did not know that he was being arrested and did not understand the allegations until the trial started. He was also held in custody for a year, having a lawyer who did not help his case, and never fully understanding the charges.

The prosecution then started the cross-examination by noting that Dorsey had lied about doing drugs, and he responded by saying that he didn’t consider weed to be a drug. Ms. Serafin also mentioned that he was involved in the use of opiates and had never had a picture of J and Cameron on his Instagram, despite saying that he considered them his whole life. She highlighted that he is building a persona in court by getting glasses and being styled in a suit. She then covered his altercation with the police when he was 17, mentioning that he lied and did not want to snitch on his friends.

Defense Continues Direct Examination of Darnell Dorsey: Afternoon Session

Sarah Senan

The afternoon of October 24, 2016, brought the resumption of the case of the People v. Darnell Dorsey, Judge Paul Richardson presiding.

The People, represented by Deputy District Attorney Michelle Serafin, resumed cross-examination of the defendant, who opted to take the stand in his own defense. Mr. Dorsey was first questioned about a robbery conviction that he had taken part in. When the robbery took place, Mr. Dorsey had denied being involved in any way. Mr. Dorsey was in high school at the time, and fabricated a story in order to cover up the robbery. Ms. Serafin asked Mr. Dorsey if he recalled the police showing him a photo-lineup with his friend, “CS,” who was also involved in the robbery. Mr. Dorsey stated that he did not remember. Ms. Serafin, frustrated, then claimed that Mr. Dorsey chooses to remember only what he wants.

Ms. Serafin then asked Mr. Dorsey  to whom he lies in his personal life. When asked if he lies to his girlfriend, “VR,” Mr. Dorsey responded in the negative. Ms. Serafin indicated that Mr. Dorsey has had conversations with his girlfriend and stated that he intends to marry her. Yet, at his time in the jail facility, Mr. Dorsey has flirted with “JN” and has sent her pictures of himself. Mr. Dorsey stated that he was simply “flirting” and trying to pass the time. However, Ms. Serafin questioned whether his flirting could be considered lying – and that he is lying, either to JN or to VR.

The prosecution then asked Mr. Dorsey about his marijuana use. Mr. Dorsey was prone to smoking marijuana multiple times every day. He stated that smoking never impaired his ability to perform daily tasks. He was often high 24 hours a day, and was able to go to school and function properly. Additionally, Mr. Dorsey was never “bedridden” when high.

On January 22, 2014, Mr. Dorsey was home alone with his son, J, and the victim, Cameron.  Dorsey stated that he was smoking pot and playing video games inside the master bedroom, while J and Cameron were in the living room. At this point, VR was going to the gym. Dorsey claimed that there was no tension between the two. Before VR left for the gym, she had prepared potatoes and sausage for Cameron. Mr. Dorsey stated that Cameron was not fine that night, but was rather sick.

Mr. Dorsey told the police that he had heard Cameron gagging. At this point, there was confusion between Ms. Serafin and Mr. Dorsey. Dorsey stated that Cameron was not eating, so he fed him “a couple of bites.” However, this is the first time that Mr. Dorsey admitted to feeding Cameron.

Ms. Serafin asked Mr. Dorsey if he yelled at the children that night, because they were not eating. Mr. Dorsey said that he does not yell at his children, but that he may have scolded them. Dorsey stated that when he checked on the boys, he found Cameron playing with his toys. He then told Cameron to put the toys away and to finish his food. Dorsey stated that he took Cameron’s sausage away, but left the potatoes, because he was not eating.

The People then began to question Mr. Dorsey’s response to Cameron’s state of unresponsiveness. Mr. Dorsey stated that he shook Cameron by the shoulders and “slapped” his cheeks. However, Dorsey stated that he did not slap Cameron in the violent way that is being betrayed. Dorsey described his actions as he “patted” the boy.  The police had asked if it were possible that he had dropped Cameron, and Mr. Dorsey had said that he may have. However, Mr. Dorsey now claimed that he was sure he did not drop Cameron.

The police also stated Cameron was bleeding from the lip, and that this was due to the slapping from the cheeks. However, Mr. Dorsey stated that he did not slap Cameron violently, and that it was not possible that he was the cause of the blood. Ms. Serafin then brought up the fact that there were tissues with blood found in the trash can. Additionally, there were blue sweatpants that were found with bloodstains on them. However, Mr. Dorsey stated that those sweatpants could have been from a different day.

Ms. Serafin questioned Mr. Dorsey on the level of intensity with which he shook Cameron. Mr. Dorsey told the police, at Sutter Davis Hospital, that he “shook the s*** out of him.” Mr. Dorsey confirmed the statement, but continued to deny that he actually shook Cameron violently.

On January 23, 2014, Mr. Dorsey was in an interview room with the Davis Police Department. Mr. Dorsey described his state as “hysterical” and testified that the police “manipulated” him into thinking that he had done something wrong and had caused harm to Cameron.

Mr. Dorsey testified that he did attempt to perform CPR. However, he stopped seconds later because he did not know how to properly perform CPR. When the police asked Mr. Dorsey if he had performed CPR on Cameron, Mr. Dorsey stated to them that he “didn’t do none” and that he “actually might’ve.”

When the Davis Police Department asked Dorsey about Cameron’s broken ribs, he stated that he knew nothing about broken ribs. He did not grab Cameron by the torso. Ms. Serafin questioned why Dorsey never took Cameron to the doctor, even though he lived with Cameron for two and a half years. Mr. Dorsey continued to testify that nothing he did caused Cameron’s injuries.

After Mr. Dorsey found Cameron unconscious, he ran to the neighbors’ door in order to use a phone. Ms. Serafin stated that there is a nearby gas station, a half mile away from Mr. Dorsey’s trailer, and that he could have gone there. Ms. Serafin questioned why Mr. Dorsey thought that shaking Cameron was a reasonable response to finding him unconscious. Mr. Serafin asked why he did not seek help immediately. Mr. Dorsey continued to state that he did not shake Cameron in the “violent and scary” way that is being portrayed.

Once Mr. Dorsey was arrested, he was taken to the Davis Police Department. He was placed in a cell and was unable to communicate with anyone. Mr. Dorsey stated that, during his questioning with the police, the police told him of some injuries that existed and of some that did not. The ones that existed were Cameron’s broken ribs and the bleeding in the brain. The injuries that did not exist were that Cameron’s “eyes were detached from his brain” and he had a “spleen burst.” Mr. Dorsey stated that he knows that he did not break Cameron’s ribs.

Ms. Serafin then brought forth Exhibit 244. It was a recording of a conversation between Mr. Dorsey and his mother.

Mr. Dorsey’s mother can be heard saying: “These people have already convicted you, because you’re the boyfriend with the record.”

Mr. Dorsey exclaimed to his mother, “Cameron is hurt.”

Mr. Dorsey’s mother responded with: “Cameron is dead.”

Ms. Serafin stated that this was the first time that Mr. Dorsey had any information regarding Cameron’s health. After Dorsey’s mother told him that Cameron was dead, Dorsey did not ask any questions about what had happened to Cameron nor did he ask about what the doctors said. The phone call was 34 minutes and Mr. Dorsey never once asked about Cameron. At this point, Mr. Dorsey appeared distraught and stated that he never asked his mother because he had previously been told that Cameron was going to die.

The afternoon session ended with Exhibit 245, another phone call recording. The portion of the phone call that was played consisted of Mr. Dorsey saying, “I’m going to be in a lot of trouble and there is no way around it.”

Mr. Dorsey stated that he believed he was going to be in a lot of trouble because he had testified, to the police, that he shook Cameron. Ms. Serafin then proceeded to ask how Mr. Dorsey shook Cameron. Mr. Dorsey stated that he lifted him off the ground by his shoulders. Cameron had been still lying down flat, however, his upper body was off the ground.


About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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One thought on “Dorsey Emotional as He Takes the Stand in His Own Defense”

  1. Davis Progressive

    it’s very rare to see a defendant in a murder trial take the stand.  i’m not sure if i can tell from this whether he helped or hurt himself.

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