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 appeal in 2012, the state Supreme Court upheld Dorsey's two death sentences in a 7-0 vote.
The primary point made by Dorsey's current counsel - assistant public defender Kent Denzel - during oral arguments before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, 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.
He noted that the state's electronic data from a vaginal swab from Bonnie showed two peaks that were excluded from the evidence as inconclusive, but could have proven the possibility of genetic material from another party. According to Denzel, an expert for the defense said those two "stutters" could actually have been alleles that excluded Dorsey. An allele is part of a pair or series of genes that occupies a given position on a chromosome.
Denzel argued that had Dorsey known this evidence existed or could have been investigated, he may have gone to trial rather than plead guilty, and a jury may have sentenced him to life in prison rather than death.
"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," Denzel 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."