SAN FRANCISCO (UPI) — The death sentence of Douglas Stankewitz, California’s longest-serving death row inmate, was overturned by a federal appeals court.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided Monday in a 2-1 ruling that Stankewitz, convicted of murdering Theresa Greybeal in 1978 in Fresno, should be re-sentenced to life imprisonment without parole unless prosecutors want to retry the penalty phase of his murder trial.
Stankewitz’s conviction stands, but the appellate panel said his lawyer made only a “paltry” attempt to persuade jurors against a death sentence, ignored documentation of the defendant’s “deprived and abusive upbringing,” potential mental illness and long history of substance abuse.
The ruling upheld a decision by a district court judge, Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain, who reviewed the case, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.