MEMPHIS, Tenn. – A man who killed six people in a bloody rampage in a Memphis home two years ago, including his brother and two young nephews, was sentenced to die by injection Tuesday by the same jury that convicted him of one of the city's worst mass murders.
The jury talked less than two hours before deciding six death sentences for Jessie Dotson, 35, an ex-convict. He showed little reaction as the sentence was delivered, but appeared to nod as Criminal Court Judge James Beasley imposed it. He also nodded as officers led him out of the courtroom.
Dotson was found guilty Monday of six counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of his brother, his brother's girlfriend and two other adults, and the fatal stabbings of two nephews, ages 2 and 4.
Three other children were stabbed but survived the slaughter, for which he was convicted of three counts of attempted first-degree murder in the March 2, 2008 attack. Two of the young survivors testified that "Uncle Junior," a nickname the family had for Dotson, committed the gruesome attacks.
A key moment came Tuesday when a prosecutor showed jurors grisly photos of the two slain boys. Two jurors wiped tears from their eyes as the jury passed around the photos.
Jurors also heard for the first time that Dotson already served 14 years in prison for murder. He was released about seven months before the Memphis killings.
"He's only in his 30s and he's taken seven human lives," prosecutor Ray Lepone said while arguing for the death penalty in his closing argument. "If not this case, what case?"
District Attorney Bill Gibbons commented afterward that the justice system had worked.
Defense attorney Gerald Skahan said, the death sentence "was probably a foregone conclusion if they convicted" because of the number of killings and the prior conviction. The jury of nine women and three men also could have chosen life in prison without parole or life with parole possible.
The family was not made available to the media. Relatives of the children bowed their heads and closed their eyes while the judge read the sentences.
After less than two hours of deliberating Monday, jurors concluded that Dotson shot his brother, Cecil Dotson, in the head during an argument after a day of drinking, then went after everyone else in the house with two guns, boards and kitchen knives, trying to eliminate all witnesses.
He then stabbed two boys and a 2-month old girl, who stayed alive for about 40 hours until paramedics arrived, prosecutors said.
Also killed were his nephews 4-year-old Cemario Dotson and 2-year-old Cecil Dotson Jr. II; Cecil Dotson's girlfriend, Marissa Williams; and friends Hollis Seals and Shindri Roberson.
Cecil Dotson Jr., now 11, was found in a bathtub with a 4½-inch knife blade stuck in his skull. The boy, his brother 8-year-old Cedric Dotson, and Jessie Dotson's mother were key prosecution witnesses.
After Lepone spoke Tuesday, Jessie Dotson clapped softly before being stopped by a defense team investigator sitting next to him. Dotson wore a green jail jumpsuit after spending the entire trial dressed in long-sleeved shirts and pants.
The defense used Dotson's learning disability, a history of neglect by his mother and his background on the street among "thugs" as reasons to decide on life in prison without parole.
"With that, he never walks free again, and you've taken all he's got left," said defense attorney Marty McAfee.
Despite a confession to police and to his mother, Dotson blamed the attack on gang members. He testified he was at the house on Lester Street, a poor and crime-ridden part of Memphis, and hid under a bed during the slayings. He said he didn't report them to police because he feared for his life.
More than 460 exhibits were entered into the record during trial, including knife blades, spent bullets, and color photos that show the bodies and blood-soaked walls, furniture and carpets. The guns used in the shootings were never found.
Dotson is to be sentenced Nov. 12 for the attempted murder convictions. Beasley set his execution date for March 2, 2012, but appeals are likely to delay it.