Jury finds Dotson guilty on all counts in Lester Street Trial - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Jury finds Dotson guilty on all counts in Lester Street Trial

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Jessie Dotson Jessie Dotson
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MEMPHIS, TN -

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A jury in Memphis found Jessie Dotson guilty of six counts of first degree murder on Monday, and three counts of attempted first degree murder, in the March 2008 Lester Street attacks.

Dotson, 35, faces the death penalty for one of Memphis' worst-ever mass slayings.

While the verdict was read, Dotson showed no emotion, looking straight ahead.

Jurors concluded that Dotson shot and killed his brother, Cecil Dotson, during a 2008 argument and then went after everyone else in the house with his gun and a knife to eliminate witnesses.

Three other children were stabbed, but survived. One of them, Cecil Dotson Jr., now 11, was found in a bathtub with a knife blade embedded in his skull. He was a key prosecution witness against his uncle.

Also killed were Jessie Dotson's nephews, 4-year-old Cemario Dotson and 2-year-old Cecil Dotson II; his brother's girlfriend, Marissa Williams; and friends Hollis Seals and Shindri Robinson.

When he took the stand Saturday, Dotson blamed the attack on gang membersm, saying he was in the house on Lester Street, and hid under a bed during the slayings. Dotson told jurors he didn't report them to police because he feared for his life.

However, prosecutors put Dotson Jr. - who was 9 at the time of the attack - on the stand last week. He testified that "Uncle Junior" shot his father and then attacked him with a knife. Another survivor, 8-year-old Cedric Dotson, also testified against his uncle.

Prosecutor Ray Lepone said their testimony was essential.

"Those kids know who stabbed them," Lepone said.

Authorities said Dotson, who served prison time for murder and was released about seven months before the killings, escaped from the house by riding off on a child's bicycle. They introduced a confession to police and said he also confessed to his mother days after the bodies were found.

Dotson threatened suicide as the investigation progressed, saying, "They're going to put this on me," according to testimony.

Outside the courtroom, defense attorney Gerald Skahan said testimony from Dotson's mother about his confession while in police custody likely weighed heavily into the jury's decision.

"I would imagine his mother's testimony was something they considered when they were deliberating, and I think it hurt him a lot," Skahan said.
 
The trial provided a glimpse into the world of Memphis gangs, with explanations of gang hierarchies and discussions of death violations - actions that result in killing as punishment.

More than 460 exhibits were entered into the record, including knife blades, bullet casings, and grisly color photos that show the bodies and blood-soaked walls, furniture and carpets. Experienced police officers who have testified have said the March 2, 2008, attack left a crime scene that was the most gruesome they've seen.

It was a day later before police were called and found Dotson  Jr. in the bathtub. While he was recovering at the hospital he first told police a man named Roger or Roderick attacked his family. He later told officers it was Uncle Junior, the family's name for Jessie Dotson.

The jury was selected in Nashville because of intense local news coverage of the case, and jurors heard more than two weeks' worth of emotionally grueling testimony.

The jury now will decide if Dotson should be sentenced to death by injection.

Copyright 2010 WMC-TV. All rights reserved. The AP contributed to this story.

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