Dotson sentenced to death for Lester Street murders

Published: Oct. 12, 2010 at 8:52 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 30, 2014 at 11:26 PM CDT
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Jessie Dotson
Jessie Dotson

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - One day after convicting Jessie Dotson on six counts of first-degree murder in the March, 2008 Lester Street attacks, a jury in Memphis sentenced him to death.

Dotson faced three possible sentences: death by lethal injection, life in prison with no possibility of parole, or life in prison with possibility of parole after 51 years.

The jury deliberated less than two hours Tuesday before deciding the sentence for 35-year-old Jessie Dotson.

Dotson was found guilty Monday of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of his brother, the brother's girlfriend and two other adults, and the fatal stabbings of two nephews, ages 2 and 4.

Three other children survived the slaughter. Two provided key testimony against Dotson.

To urge jurors to impose a death penalty sentence on mass murder suspect Jessie Dotson, prosecutor Ray Lepone brought in Ida Anderson, who's now raising the surviving Lester Street children.

"At this point in my life, I didn't expect to be raising children, but they are a joy," she said. "I'm doing the best I can that they can grow up to be viable citizens."

Ida Anderson is the mother of Marissa Williams, and grandmother of four-year-old CeMario Dotson - both murdered by March 3, 2008.

Anderson's identity was hidden during trial phase testimony - and only revealed after the conviction.

"We are in counseling," Anderson said. "It's hard. We're making adjustments. It's hard, but we'll get through it. With God's help, we will get through."

The defense then brought on a mitigation specialist who studied Dotson's troubled upbringing to urge jurors to give Dotson mercy: life in prison instead of the death penalty.

As Dotson's mother looked on, Glori Shettles described chaos and abuse at home.

"She was leaving the children. She was leaving the home," Shettles said. "At one point she went on a church trip in North Carolina and came back with a boyfriend."

Shettles said Dotson was bullied as a child because of what he wore, and he repeated the fourth grade because he didn't go to school.

"The kids didn't have clothes," she said. "They didn't have decent clothes and they were picked on. Jessie in particular. So he just didn't go to school."

Dotson looked down as Shettles described how Dotson's father beat his mother. She then took the children away and the children never knew where their father went.

"One day he came home and the kids were gone and he didn't know where they were, and they were gone," she said. "It wasn't four or five months before she got in touch with Jessie Senior."

At one point, Dotson's grandmother threw him out of her house because he stole money to eat.  By 8th grade, at age 16, Dotson dropped out of school and entered the juvenile court system.

Dotson sent shockwaves through Courtroom 10 when he changed from his shirt and slacks into a jailhouse jumpsuit, after court broke for lunch.

"Mr. Dotson has chosen to change into his jail clothes," Judge James Beasley told the jury.

Jurors wiped away tears when the prosecution released gruesome photos they hadn't seen during the trial.

"We selected just three," prosecutor Ray Lepone said. "They are going to be hard to look at."
Still, defense attorney Marty McAfee pleaded for mercy, reminding jurors Dotson was bullied as a child.

"Life in prison, life without parole is enough," he said.

McAffee asked jurors to think hard before considering death.

"You have to look at yourself before you make that decision," he said.

Then, Lepone took center stage, making an impassioned plea to jurors to impose the death penalty.  Dotson began looking away, no longer engaged.

"A prior convicted murderer who's in society for five months kills six more people, including children," he said.

Lapone said it doesn't matter whether or not jurors support the death penalty.

"You want to talk about giving the death penalty? He gave the death penalty to six people," he said.  "You know they screamed and begged for their lives. Now Jessie's doing the same? Did Shindri get a jury? Did Marissa get a jury?"

Lepone asked the jury to find courage in the two of the three surviving children who were brave enough to testify with the killer in the room.

"What's going to stop him? You," he said to jurors. "You. How? With the law. And it should be death."

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