Judge to allow media for Dorsey sentencing, victim statements

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

Officials from the Los Angeles Superior Court announced Monday that media will be allowed into the courtroom next month during the sentencing of James Dorsey, a reversal of the bench’s previous standing order.  

In a statement released Monday, officials said Judge Cynthia Ulfig reversed her previous order barring members of the media from the courtroom after the action had been specifically requested by defense counsel.  

The transcript of that conversation was sealed and unpublished in the court record, but remained in effect for all subsequent court appearances by Dorsey, including last week’s procedural hearing where he entered a no-contest plea to having broken into his estranged wife’s Saugus home April 15 and stabbed her to death while their children slept in their rooms.  

In total, Dorsey, 42, pleaded no contest — what is essentially treated as a guilty plea — to the following: murder, attempted kidnapping, residential burglary, evading police and resisting a law enforcement officer.  

Prosecutors say he fatally stabbed Michelle Dorsey, 39, at the Fir Court residence in the early morning before then stealing her Chevy Malibu from in front of the home and fleeing the scene.  

At 5:10 a.m. Michelle Dorsey made the call to 911, saying that she had been attacked in her home and required medical attention. She would go on to make what investigators call a “dying declaration,” naming her husband as her attacker, before she died at the hospital later that morning.   

Dorsey was taken into custody at 10 p.m. that same day, after leading law enforcement on a countywide manhunt and ultimately crashing the Malibu into an embankment on a remote road in Quartz Hill, near the Kern County line.   

The trial, despite its relatively quick speed, has been brought to the center of the conversation surrounding both local domestic abuse as well as county politics.  

In previous articles published by The Signal, law enforcement officials and family members openly criticized the charges levied against the accused murderer. Their criticism has stemmed from the lack of sentencing enhancements — a way in which prosecutors request additional sentencing years from judges should there be extenuating circumstances in a particular case — added to the five charges to which Dorsey eventually pleaded no contest.   

With the family’s support, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide investigators asked for handful of enhancements from the District Attorney’s Office, such as murder in commission of a burglary, murder during the course of a kidnapping and lying-in wait. Those additional charges, plus any possible weapons enhancements, would have resulted in life without parole.  

However, a series of sweeping executive orders from District George Gascón last December have significantly limited the use of these enhancements in new cases. As a result, investigators and loved ones of Michelle Dorsey have speculated that her estranged husband could likely serve a maximum of 20 years in prison, when accounting for good behavior and elderly parole.  

Dorsey is set to be sentenced on June 21 in Department S at the San Fernando Superior Courthouse following the reading of victim impact statements. He has been remanded to the custody of the state and is currently being held at Twin Towers Correctional Facility.  

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