He’s on Death Row for Murders. Prison Workers Say He Should Be Spared.

Among those asking Missouri’s governor to spare the life of Brian Dorsey, who was convicted of two murders and is set to be executed on Tuesday, were Roman Catholic bishops, law professors and national mental health groups.

There was also a less expected cohort seeking clemency: more than 70 current and former prison workers who got to know Mr. Dorsey behind bars.

That level of public support from correctional workers is rare in death penalty cases, though it remains to be seen whether it persuades Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, to commute Mr. Dorsey’s sentence to life in prison.

Mr. Dorsey, 52, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the 2006 deaths of his cousin Sarah Bonnie and her husband, Ben Bonnie. His request for clemency made no claim of innocence. Instead, it argued that he had received inadequate representation from court-appointed lawyers and that he had turned his life around in prison, where he had a spotless record of behavior and worked for years as a barber for correctional employees.

“From my perspective after decades in corrections, I do not hesitate to say that executing Brian Dorsey would be a pointless cruelty,” Timothy Lancaster, a former officer at the prison where Mr. Dorsey was held, wrote in a recent column in The Kansas City Star. Mr. Lancaster described Mr. Dorsey as “an excellent barber and a kind and respectful man.”

Some members of Mr. Dorsey’s family, including some who were also related to Ms. Bonnie, supported the clemency request. Other members of Ms. Bonnie’s family issued a statement in January saying they hoped the governor would allow the execution to proceed.

“All of these years of pain we finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” those relatives said in the statement, which was reported by local news outlets. “Brian will get the justice that Sarah and Ben have deserved for so long.”

Mr. Lancaster was among more than 70 current and former prison workers who vouched for Mr. Dorsey, whose lawyers released a copy of a letter the prison workers wrote to the governor but redacted most of their names, citing privacy concerns. The full list of names was provided to the governor’s office, the lawyers said.

The advocacy of so many corrections officials on behalf of Mr. Dorsey is “really remarkable,” said Robin M. Maher, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which studies capital punishment and is critical of many of its facets. “I’ve never seen any other case with this kind of support from current and former corrections staff,” Ms. Maher said.

Mr. Dorsey’s application for clemency took note of the rare support, and said, “These state employees have nothing to gain, and potentially something to lose, by coming forward.”

Missouri has carried out 97 executions since 1976, ranking behind only Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia and Florida. Mr. Parson, a former sheriff, has not blocked an execution since he took office in 2018, though he has granted pardons to or commuted the sentences of hundreds of people convicted of less serious crimes.

Johnathan Shiflett, a spokesman for the governor, said on Monday that Mr. Parson would meet with legal advisers to review Mr. Dorsey’s clemency request. Mr. Shiflett said the governor typically announces his decision in such cases at least 24 hours before an execution is scheduled to take place.

The Missouri attorney general, Andrew Bailey, asked the State Supreme Court to set an execution date for Mr. Dorsey last year. He noted that “the lawful sentence that has been upheld by multiple courts” and said his office was “committed to obtaining justice for victims of heinous crimes.”

Executions in the United States have become less common in recent decades as support for capital punishment has decreased. Last year, 24 people were executed, down from the 98 executed in 1998.

Missouri officials say that Mr. Dorsey was having trouble with drug dealers and had sought help from his cousin and her husband in December 2006. The Bonnies invited Mr. Dorsey to spend the night at their home near New Bloomfield, Mo., in the central part of the state. After the couple went to bed that night, the authorities said, Mr. Dorsey took a shotgun and fatally shot each of them. Prosecutors also said that Mr. Dorsey sexually assaulted Ms. Bonnie, though he never was charged with that offense. The sexual assault accusation was presented at Mr. Dorsey’s sentencing; Mr. Dorsey’s lawyers said he has no memory of a sexual assault.

Mr. Dorsey, whose current lawyers assert that he was in a drug-induced psychosis at the time of the killings, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder. He was later sentenced to death.

Death notices and news stories published at the time said the Bonnie family had moved to the New Bloomfield area from Iowa about a year before the couple were killed. Mr. Bonnie, 28, was an auto mechanic who liked to fish, hunt and camp. Ms. Bonnie, 25, was an emergency medical technician who had worked in local government, belonged to a Methodist church and rode motorcycles. The couple had a 4-year-old daughter who was in the home but was not physically harmed.

Mr. Dorsey has asked state and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, to intervene before the scheduled execution.

In his clemency application to the governor, Mr. Dorsey argued that he had received bad advice from court-appointed lawyers who received a flat fee to take his case and did little to explore potential mitigating factors or plea deals. Mr. Dorsey pleaded guilty without any agreement with prosecutors regarding sentencing. One of the lawyers who represented Mr. Dorsey at that stage of his case declined to comment, and an attempt to reach the other was not immediately successful.

The director of the Missouri public defender system, Mary Fox, supported Mr. Dorsey’s clemency application and said that her office no longer pays lawyers a flat fee in death penalty cases. Critics say flat fees can give lawyers an incentive to resolve a case quickly rather than spend additional time that might lead to an outcome more favorable for a defendant.

Michael Wolff, a former Missouri Supreme Court judge who was among a majority of members of that court to uphold Mr. Dorsey’s death sentence, also expressed concern about the work of Mr. Dorsey’s court-appointed lawyers. In a letter to Mr. Parson, Mr. Wolff wrote that Mr. Dorsey’s case was one of the “rare cases where those of us who sit in judgment of a man convicted of capital murder got it wrong.”

Megan Crane, a lawyer for Mr. Dorsey, said her client had been moved into solitary confinement after his execution date was set, bringing an end to his time as the prison barber. As the execution has drawn closer, Ms. Crane said, Mr. Dorsey has tried to manage his expectations about the possibility of intervention from the courts or the governor.

“He has taken full accountability since Day 1,” Ms. Crane said. “And the horror of the fact that he could have done this — I think that is still his focus in this final week.”

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