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Condemned man loses appeal

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ERIC CORNELISON
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HOUSTON - A federal appeals court has turned down the appeal of a North Texas man condemned for a robbery where two employees of a Dallas video store were shot to death, moving the convicted killer closer to execution for a crime which occurred more than 13 years ago.

Leon Dorsey IV listens to testimony during a 1998 hearing at the Frank Crowley Criminal Courts Building.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an appeal from Leon Dorsey IV of Waxahachie.

He had challenged his conviction and death sentence for the fatal shootings of James Armstrong, 26, and Brad Lindsey, 20, during an April 1994 holdup of a Blockbuster video store. Evidence showed he stole $392.

The slayings went unsolved for about four years.

When Dorsey finally went to trial in late 1999, a Dallas County jury deadlocked 11-1 for conviction, forcing the trial judge to declare a mistrial.

The second trial, in May 2000, resulted in his conviction and death sentence.

In his appeal, Dorsey, now 31, challenged his trial court's denial of a mistrial request after some jurors wrongly saw an 88-page transcript of an interview Dorsey did with a reporter for The Dallas Morning News.

In the jailhouse interview, Dorsey described numerous other crimes the trial court had admitted into evidence only for record purposes.

An edited version of the taped interview, with the extraneous crime admissions deleted, had been admitted as evidence and played for jurors.

The jury foreman, about 90 minutes into deliberations, sent out a note asking if it was proper that the panel had the full transcript because it appeared to include information not brought out on the witness stand.

Not all jurors saw the full transcript, but the panel members were interviewed individually at a hearing and all said they would not consider the additional material in their deliberations.

When they were allowed to resume, Dorsey's attorney asked for a mistrial but the request was denied.

The three-judge panel of the New Orleans-based appeals court, in its decision posted late Monday, said any error by the trial court was harmless.

'The evidence against Dorsey was overwhelming,' the judges wrote, noting that he confessed to at least four different people and that a security camera's videotape of the shooting showed a man matching Dorsey's description.

Besides that issue, Dorsey, who is black, unsuccessfully challenged prosecutors' removal of a black man from the jury pool.

And the appeals court rejected his arguments that the trial court should have dismissed four prospective jurors who were biased in favor of the death penalty or said they would not consider his youth as a mitigating factor in their deliberations.

Instead, Dorsey's lawyers used their allowed strikes to remove the potential jurors.

'He had not alleged that the jury that sat in his capital murder trial was not impartial,' the appeals judges wrote.

At the time of his capital murder trial, Dorsey, who does not have an execution date, was serving a 60-year sentence for murder for the slaying of a 51-year-old woman at an Ellis County food store.

Dorsey initially was questioned about the video-store killings after his girlfriend reported to police that he had admitted the shootings to her.

But police erroneously believed the 18-year-old was too tall, based on images from the security tape.

When the case was reopened in 1998, Dallas authorities had the tape analyzed by the FBI and determined Dorsey could have been the gunman.

When he was questioned again, he confessed.

In addition, evidence showed a week before his trial he told a fellow jail inmate about the slayings and sent a letter to another prisoner, offering $5,000 to accept blame for the killings.

He also admitted to the crimes in another interview with the Morning News.

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