Murderpedia

 

 

Juan Ignacio Blanco  

 
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William Wilton MORRISETTE III

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: July 25, 1980
Date of arrest: 1999 (19 years later)
Date of birth: April 2, 1947
Victim profile: Dorothy "Dottie" White, 47
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Hampton County, Virginia, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on October 30, 2001. Resentenced to life in prison without parole in February 2011
 
 
 
 
 

The Supreme Court of Virginia

 
opinion 020323 & 020324
 
 
upon a petition for a writ of habeas corpus
 
 
 
 
 
 

William Wilton Morrisette III

Date of Birth:  April 2, 1947

Sex: Male

Race:  White

Entered the Row: Oct. 30, 2001

District: Hampton County

Conviction: Capital murder and rape

Virginia DOC Inmate Number: 300101

On July 25th, 1980, Dorothy "Dottie" White, was found stabbed to death in her Hampton mobile home. The 47-year-old bank worker had been raped and stabbed eight times.

In 1999, White's sister-in-law, asked Hampton police to do DNA tests on evidence from White's slaying. William Morrisette is arrested after DNA from the crime scene matches his which was in the state felon DNA database.

On August 15, 2001, a jury in the Circuit Court for the City of Hampton convicted William Wilton Morrisette, III of capital murder and rape in the 1980 death of Dorothy M. White. The jury recommended Morrisette be sentenced to death.  Circuit Judge William C. Andrews III later affirmed the death sentence on Oct. 30, 2001.

White’s murder had remained unsolved for 19 years but through DNA testing, police linked Morrisette to evidence from the crime scene. Defense counsel asserted that Morrisette was denied due process because of the length of time that lapsed between crime and arrest.  

In 1980, police had questioned Morrisette but then failed to follow-up and confirm his alibis; since them, some died.  Moreover, Morrisette had been arrested in 1985 with DNA samples provided in order to test against White but no testing was done.

On Sept. 13, 2002, the Virginia Supreme Court denied Morrisette’s motion and affirmed his capital murder conviction and death sentence. 

However, nearly three years later, the Supreme Court of Virginia vacated the death sentence because if concluded that the Commonwealth had used a faulty verdict form during the penalty phase. 

Jury instructions had neglected to instruct that life in prison was mandatory if jurors were to conclude that the Commonwealth failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt one of the two aggravating factors, “future dangerousness” and “vileness.” A new sentence hearing was ordered.

The Commonwealth appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court and on Feb. 27, 2007, the Court without comment refused to hear the appeal.

 
 

Death sentence taken off the table in 1980 Hampton slaying

Hampton prosecutors, once-condemned man sign off on life term

By Peter Dujardin - DailyPress.com

February 13, 2011

On June 25, 1980, Dorothy "Dot" White, 47, was found dead on the kitchen floor of her Hampton trailer.

She had been raped and had her throat slashed.

It was 19 years later that a DNA hit was made with a sample collected from the crime scene. The evidence matched William W. Morrisette III, a man who once did yard work for White, a single woman who worked at a local bank.

Two years later, in August 2001, a jury in Hampton Circuit Court convicted Morrisette and sentenced him to death. "I wanted to see (him) fry," said Dorothy White's brother, Lonnie Leroy White, of Danville.

But in 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a prior Virginia Supreme Court decision that cited problems with the sentencing phase of the case, particularly a jury form used at the sentencing. The case was then sent back to Hampton Circuit Court for a second sentencing hearing.

After several delays, that re-hearing was finally scheduled for December 2010 — more than 30 years after the crime and nine years after the initial sentence.

But last August — four months before the re-sentencing — Morrisette, his attorneys and Hampton prosecutors signed off on a deal in which the death penalty was taken off the table. In return, Morrisette, who was 33 at the time of the crime and is now 63, agreed to serve life without the possibility of parole and drop all pending appeals.

Hampton Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney John F. Haugh said the agreement made sense in that it can "finally bring closure" to the White family three decades after the slaying.

Haugh drove to Danville early last year to ask Lonnie White, Dorothy White's brother, if he'd agree to the deal. Lonnie White told Haugh that he would leave the decision to Doris White, 79, of Hampton, a sister-in-law who had been married to another White brother and was "like sisters" with Dorothy White.

It was Doris White, in fact, who helped spur the investigation along in the late 1990s by pressing investigators to find and re-test crime scene DNA. But in a recent interview, Doris White said she agreed to the deal because it was time to bring the case to an end.

"It was awful what he did to her," she said. "My druthers was to see him die. But rather than take a chance that he would ever get out, he has life without the possibility of parole. He'll die in prison … God knows it all, and He knows what he did. He's going before another judge, and everything he's done will be brought before him."

Douglas Ramseur, capital defender in Southeast Virginia and Morrisette's lawyer, said the deal was a wise one for all concerned.

"It was going to be a tough case for (prosecutors) to secure a death sentence on," he said, citing the age of the case and other factors. The re-sentencing "would have been very expensive and very traumatic for all sides."

Morrisette's original sentencing hearing lasted less than an hour. "Ours was going to last for weeks," Ramseur said. "We were going to get experts, witnesses from his past, from his present. We were prepared that this was going to take some time."

The jury would have had to choose between life or death. But Ramseur said that no matter what they decided, it would have been followed by another federal appeal asking for an entirely new trial on the basis of ineffective counsel.