a federal appeals court has overturned the death sentence of california's longest serving death row inmate, a 54 year-old mono indian man convicted in 1978 for killing a woman during a drug & alcohol fueled carjacking.
douglas stankewitz, who spent 34 years awaiting execution, will be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole unless prosecutors decide within 90 days to retry the penalty phase of his trial, which would consider punishment only - not guilt or innocence.
the decision late on monday by the ninth circuit court of appeals comes just a week before californians vote on a referendum to abolish the death penalty in their state. in 2006, a federal judge halted all executions in california, saying a three-drug lethal injection protocol risked causing inmates too much pain & suffering before death. the state revised its protocol, but executions have not resumed.
an appeals court panel, in a two-to-one decision, ruled stankewitz received ineffective legal counsel during the penalty phase of his murder trial, when he was sentenced to die. his lawyer, they wrote, failed to investigate & present evidence "including evidence of his deprived & abusive upbringing, potential mental illness, long history of substance abuse & use of substantial quantities of drugs leading up to the murder."
in a recent interview with reuters inside san quentin state prison, stankewitz called the death penalty "a joke," & described how long delays in the appeals process, coupled with ineffective counsel, had led him to spending more than three decades waiting to die. during the interview stankewitz said, "they can't kill me because the system is messed up so bad."
stankewitz suffered alcohol exposure in the womb, was removed from his home at age six after his mother beat him & bounced between foster care facilities where he was severely troubled & abused, court documents show. just 19, he & a group of friends carjacked theresa graybeal, 22, from a k-mart parking lot in modesto. they drove across rural heartland to fresno, roughly 100 miles away, where graybeal was shot & killed.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.