On October 29, the United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals made waves with its 2-1 decision to overturn the death sentence of Douglas R. Stankewitz – the longest-serving death row inmate in California according to the Los Angeles Times.
The ruling by the appeals panel said that his defense lawyer failed to investigate or offer mitigating evidence during the penalty phase of the murder trial leading to Stankewitz being resentenced to life without possibility of parole unless prosecutors retry the penalty phase of his murder case according to the LA Times.
Stankewitz was convicted in the 1978 killing of Theresa Greybeal in Fresno, California. During the trial, his lawyer did little to persuade jurors against the death sentence, ignoring significant documentation of Stankewitz’s deprived and abusive upbringing according to the panel.
According to NewsOK.com “Stankewitz was born into a filthy, poverty-stricken home without running water or electricity to an intellectually impaired alcoholic mother and an abusive, alcoholic father, the court said. By the age of 6, Stankewitz already was severely emotionally damaged, the court said.”
One of the three panelists, Judge Raymond C. Fisher, wrote for the court that Stankewitz’s defense attorney “did not obtain a psychological examination of Stankewitz, despite his belief that Stankewitz was not mentally competent, and did not pursue any of the evidence of Stankewitz’s history of drug and alcohol abuse.”