Memphis mass murder case goes to appellate court

By Lawrence Buser
Posted April 8, 2013 at 5:10 p.m.

Lawyers for the man convicted and sentenced to death in the 2008 Lester Street mass murder of men, women and children will travel to Jackson, Tenn., Tuesday to try to convince a panel of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals that he deserves a new trial.

Jessie Dotson is on death row in Nashville for the shooting and stabbing of four adults and two children in a gruesome case that attracted national attention. Dotson, 38, received six death sentences, plus 120 years in prison.

Three other children survived beatings and slashings, including his 9-year-old nephew who told police Dotson his “Uncle Junior” was responsible for the carnage.

Defense attorneys say statements by the boy, Cecil Dotson Jr., are unreliable and conflicted with physical facts and other accounts he gave of the attack in March of 2008.

They also contend that the defendant’s confession was not consistent with evidence found at the crime scene.

“Jessie Dotson told police that he started firing with his own gun which, by all accounts, was a .45-caliber pistol,” defense attorney Marty McAfee said in a court brief. “All of the evidence at the scene indicated that a .380 and a 9mm was used, but not a .45 caliber.

“Investigators determined that the adults’ bloody bodies were moved after death, but forensic analysis of Jessie Dotson’s clothing and boots revealed no evidence of the victims’ blood.”

State prosecutors say the evidence taken as a whole clearly indicated that Dotson committed the crimes.

“There was overwhelming evidence of the defendant’s guilt,” Asst. Atty. Gen. Jeffrey Zentner of Nashville said in court papers. “He named himself twice as the murderer, in addition to being named by two eyewitnesses as the murderer.... There was evidence that the defendant conversed with the victims while killing or attempting to kill them, rebuffing their attempts to tell him they loved him and even explaining why he had to kill them.”

Dotson told police and his mother he began killing the adults, including his brother, during a heated argument and that he killed the children because they had seen him and could identify him.

His parole had expired just weeks earlier, after he had served about 14 years in prison for second-degree murder in the 1994 killing of another man in a drug deal.

The murder victims included his brother, Cecil Dotson, 30, and his live-in girlfriend, Marissa Williams, 27; Hollis Seals, 33, and his girlfriend, Shindri Roberson, 22; Cemario Dotson, 4, and Cecil Dotson II, 2, both sons of Cecil Dotson.

Three children of Cecil Dotson and Marissa Williams were critically injured, including Cecil Dotson Jr., 9, Cedric Dotson, 3, and Ceniyah Dotson, four months.

The adults were shot multiple times, while the children were stabbed and slashed multiple times.
© 2013 Memphis Commercial Appeal. All rights reserved.


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