City Council publishes draft letter calling for sentencing enhancements in Dorsey case

Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station deputies investigate a stabbing on Fir Court in Saugus on Thursday, April 15, 2021. Tim Whyte/The Signal

The Santa Clarita City Council is set Tuesday to discuss and possibly sign a letter encouraging sentencing enhancements — ways in which prosecutors can add more years in criminal case sentencing — be applied to the suspect in the Michelle Dorsey murder case.  

In the letter requested by City Council members at the April 27 meeting and addressed to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the council formally calls the lack of sentencing enhancements as a “grave lapse in judgement,” and said James Dorsey, 41, the estranged husband accused of breaking into his wife’s home and stabbing her to death on April 15, should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.  

City officials argue in the letter that investigators have been publicly quoted as saying there was enough reasonable evidence to file sentence enhancements for murder in commission of a burglary, murder committed in the attempt of kidnapping and lying-in-wait. 

“In failing to file any sentence enhancements, law enforcement and criminal justice officials have stated that Ms. Dorsey’s accused murderer may be released in 20 years,” the letter reads. “This potential outcome is of gross negligence that only endangers the physical and mental wellbeing of Ms. Dorsey’s family and perpetuates the trauma they will carry for the rest of their lives.” 

The grievances specifically listed in the letter stem from directives issued by District Attorney George Gascón when he entered office in December. In addition to ending pursuit of the death penalty in L.A. County and reducing sentencing for a number of criminal offenses, Gascón has ordered the near universal abolishment of prosecutors requesting the additional sentencing enhancements, which can result in life without parole punishments in certain cases. 

During their March 9 meeting, City Council members unanimously approved a vote of no confidence in Gascón.  

The letter asks the Board of Supervisors to join the city in urging the District Attorney’s office to “uphold its duties and responsibilities to appropriately prosecute criminals, based on the evidence presented and consistent with state law.” 

“We implore you to join us in urging the District Attorney to file sentence enhancements in this case,” the letter says.  

If approved by the council at their Tuesday night meeting, the letter will be authorized and sent as a five-signature letter to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.  

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