Supreme Court overturns death penalty
Published 2:01 pm Wednesday, April 30, 2003
By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP – Managing Editor
A man who was convicted in a triple murder in 1996 had his death penalty erased on Friday by a 5-4 decision of the Alabama Supreme Court.
Ethan Dorsey, 34, was found guilty of felony murder for the killings of Richard Cary, who owned the store where the shooting took place; his employee, Scott Williams; and 13-year-old Timothy Bryan Crane. The shooting took place during a robbery of Cary's store located in the Brooklyn community.
The conviction came with the help of a plea bargain made with Dorsey's accomplice Calvin Middleton, 30. Both were tried in 1998 with Middleton agreeing to testify against Dorsey in order to avoid the death penalty himself. Both men were found guilty with Dorsey sentenced to die and Middleton sentenced to life without parole. But now, with the supreme court's decision, Dorsey could be eligible for parole in four years, due to time served, according to Conecuh County District Attorney Tommy Chapman.
In 1998, a Conecuh jury found Dorsey guilty of three counts of felony murder in the deaths of Williams, Cary and Crane. The jury added a guilty verdict for robbery, which is a requirement for felony murder, during a second deliberation.
However, Alabama's high court said that the convictions for felony murder meant Dorsey could not be sentenced under capital murder charges for the same crime, meaning he could not be given the death penalty.
Justice Tom Woodall, writing the majority opinion for the court stated, "We conclude that Dorsey's conviction under count 1 for the lesser offense of felony murder as to Crane precluded any further consideration of his intent by the jury, and necessarily acquitted him of the capital-murder charge in count 3 of the indictment."
That opinion conflicts with the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals unanimous decision to uphold the capital murder conviction.
Chapman said that although parole could happen, he feels like it won't, and believes the case will be re-tried. In fact, he's already contacted the State's Attorney General's Office, and with the evidence already on hand, believes a new trial is inevitable.
Sarah Crane Graddy, mother of the 13-year-old who was killed, said the court's decision undermines what the families of the tragedy went through.
Graddy said the store where the robbery and shooting took place was a familiar place to her, her son and Williams, who she was dating at the time. She said Williams took her son to the store that night to help Cary do some work.
Mike Cary, son of Richard Cary, was also angered by the decision.
Mike Cary said his father owned the store in the Brooklyn Community since before he was born. After the robbery, the store was closed.
As for the small communities of Brooklyn and Johnsonville, the news was received with dismay and disbelief.
Janice Matthews, who used to work at Cary's store and now owns her own store in the Brooklyn community, said she does not think the court's ruling is fair.
Helen Pate, a Brooklyn resident, said she also feels the court erred in its decision.
Dorsey's mother Gail, of Andalusia, said she did not want to comment on the situation.
"All I'll say is I'm glad the sentence has been reduced, but other than that, I don't want to comment on anything else. It's still very difficult to talk about."
Robert Bozeman of the Evergreen Courant and Jeffery Biggs of the Andalusia Star News contributed to this report.