Update: Dorsey Executed in Missouri Despite Unprecedented Support

Brian Dorsey photo – courtesy of Jeremy Weis

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Brian Dorsey was executed Tuesday night by the state of Missouri despite unprecedented support from over 70 correctional officers, jurors, Republican lawmakers, family members, a former judge, and more.

The Supreme Court denied Brian Dorsey’s requests to consider whether he was denied the effective assistance of counsel by his attorneys’ flat-fee compensation or whether executing someone who is fully rehabilitated is cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

Despite broad and diverse support for Dorsey’s clemency petition, Missouri Governor Mike Parson on Monday denied the request to commute Dorsey’s death sentence.

Dorsey’s clemency petition, as indicated, was supported by more than 70 current and former Missouri correctional officers, a former judge of the Missouri Supreme Court, five of the jurors who sentenced Dorsey to death, Republican state legislators, mental health experts, faith leaders, and many members of Dorsey’s family, several of whom also are family members of the victim.

“Brian Dorsey is kind, gentle, hardworking, and humble. He has spent every day of the past 18 years trying to make up for the single act of violence he committed, serving the prison community as the staff barber and never getting in even the slightest trouble,” said attorney Kirk Henderson.”

Henderson reiterated, “More than 70 correctional officers, the people who spent day in and day out with him over nearly two decades at Potosi Correctional Center, came together to urge clemency for Brian. These correctional officers told Governor Parson about Brian’s exceptional remorse and redemption, and they said Brian’s execution would hurt them. If anyone deserves mercy, surely it is Brian, who has been fully rehabilitated and whose death sentence was so flawed that five of his jurors believe he should not be executed.

He added, “Executing Brian Dorsey is a pointless cruelty, an exercise of the State’s power that serves no legitimate penological purpose. My heart goes out to the many family members and friends who love Brian, and to the dedicated men and women of the Missouri Department of Corrections, who have seen the goodness he is committed to bringing to the world. We will miss his smile and his bear hugs. It has been my honor to know Brian and to share his story.”

Tim Lancaster, who retired from Missouri Department of Corrections in 2021 after 27 years as a Correctional Officer and Institutional Investigator, said, “I believed that the whole purpose of ‘corrections’ was to rehabilitate people. I knew Brian Dorsey for many years, and I can say without hesitation that he was completely rehabilitated. He never had a single write-up, which is just about impossible in a place where some staff will write you up for looking at them the wrong way. Brian cut my hair, and we would talk, and I know he felt deep shame and remorse about what he had done. He was a good person who made a mistake and was working to do better. I thought that was what we hoped for by sending people to prison.”

He added, “Brian’s execution doesn’t make sense to me. He could have spent the rest of his life doing a valuable service in the prison as staff barber, and continuing to be a role model to younger offenders. I and so many of my fellow correctional staff are losing a humble, hardworking person we cared about today, and the Potosi community is worse off for it.”

Here is Dorsey’s final statement:


Missouri Governor Denies Clemency to Brian Dorsey Despite Unprecedented Support

Missouri Governor Mike Parson on Monday denied a request to commute the death sentence of Brian Dorsey despite broad and diverse support for his clemency petition.

Dorsey is set to be executed on April 9.

Dorsey’s clemency petition was supported by more than 70 current and former Missouri correctional officers, a former judge of the Missouri Supreme Court, five of the jurors who sentenced Mr. Dorsey to death, Republican state legislators, mental health experts, faith leaders, and many members of Mr. Dorsey’s family, several of whom also are family members of the victims, Mr. Dorsey’s cousin Sarah Bonnie and her husband Ben.

“Governor Parson has chosen to ignore the wealth of information before him showing that Brian Dorsey is uniquely deserving of mercy,” said Megan Crane, attorney for Dorsey.  “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.”

Crane added, “Brian’s unprecedented support, and his irrefutable evidence of redemption, are precisely the circumstances for which clemency is designed. Allowing Brian to be executed despite this truth is devastating.

“The U.S. Supreme Court should stop this pointless execution. The death sentence was obtained only because Brian had grossly ineffective counsel. And because Brian is fully rehabilitated, executing him would serve no legitimate penological purpose, therefore violating the 8th Amendment.”


Previous: In Unusual Case – Correctional Officers, Jurors and Even Republican Legislators Call for Commutation of Dorsey’s Death Sentence

A Missouri court on Friday denied Brian Dorsey a stay of execution, in an unusual case where over 70 corrections officers and the former warden of the prison asked for clemency, citing “Dorsey’s impeccable record over seventeen years of incarceration” and the belief that “Dorsey is a rehabilitated man.”

In February, Republican Representatives wrote the governor in support of clemency as well.

On Sunday Dorsey filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court raising a question that lies at the heart of our criminal justice system: “When a death-sentenced person has demonstrated that he has been rehabilitated, does the Eighth Amendment prohibit his execution because the penological goals of the death penalty would not be met by executing that person?”

As the petition explains, “This is the rare case where a person facing an imminent execution unquestionably is fully rehabilitated.”

They noted, “Brian Dorsey committed the offense during a drug-induced psychosis. During Mr. Dorsey’s many years on death row, removed from the circumstances that led to his psychosis, he has been rehabilitated. Notably, he earned the extraordinary trust of prison staff: he served as the prison’s barber – cutting the hair of inmates, correctional officers, and even wardens – and lived in the prison’s honor dorm.  He never broke a prison rule and maintained a clean prison record for more than 17 years.  And he has received the unprecedented support of more than 70 correctional officers in seeking clemency.”

In the petition, Dorsey asks the Supreme Court to consider whether his execution under these circumstances, which would serve no legitimate penological purpose, violates the Eighth Amendment.

A group of 72 current and former Missouri correctional officers submitted a letter asking Governor Parson to commute Mr. Dorsey’s death sentence.

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

Each of these officers knew Dorsey personally from their time working at the Potosi Correction Center.

They explained, “[E]very one of us believe that Brian is a good guy, someone who has stayed out of trouble, never gotten himself into any situations, and been respectful of us and of his fellow inmates.”

Several correctional officers also submitted individual letters supporting clemency for Dorsey.

One observed during his court hearings and recalls “[seeing] him struggle with the pain he caused his parents and his family.”

Another writes, “Mr. Dorsey has accepted what he did and taken accountability for his crime. It is my impression that he has spent his time since then trying to do his best by being a role model to other inmates and providing a valuable service to staff.”

Former Missouri Supreme Court judge, and former Chief Justice, Michael Wolff has written to Governor Parson to urge clemency for Mr. Dorsey. He explains that the court’s decision upholding Mr. Dorsey’s death sentence is one of the “rare cases where those of us who sit in judgment of a man convicted of capital murder got it wrong.” Judge Wolff points to the flat fee arrangement with Mr. Dorsey’s attorneys as a defect that “undoubtedly influenced everything.”

Similarly, five of the jurors who served at Mr. Dorsey’s penalty phase also agree that the legal system got it wrong in his case, and his death sentence should be commuted. (Clemency Petition p.13) In one of the juror’s words pleading to Governor Parson, “By the grace of God, I hope you will find your way to give him a life sentence instead of death.”

In addition, several Republican members of the Missouri legislature joined in asking Governor Parson to commute Mr. Dorsey’s death sentence. “[G]iven who Mr. Dorsey is today and that he is not a risk if allowed to live out the rest of his life in prison, while giving back to society and providing a service to the state as the staff barber, we strongly believe that a commutation to life without the possibility of parole is now the just result.”

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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