The fate of California's longest standing death row inmate, Douglas Ray Stankewitz, could change. Stankewitz was convicted of murder in 1978.
Stankewitz’s case was the first to be tried after the death penalty was reinstated back in 1978 and the jury handed it to him.
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Monday, nearly 30 years after the crime, Stankewitz is asking for a reversal of the decision to be upheld. Now, he may be no closer to death than he was when he was first convicted.
The case is open once again—convicted of murder and sentenced to death, Stankewitz is again making an appeal for his life.
For Fresno attorney Salvatore Sciandra, it was hundreds of cases back, but he'll never forget his first court appearance. It's been more than 30 years since he stood next to Stankewitz but the new appeal is taking him back. “When I tried the case, I made a motion expressing doubt to his ability to understand the nature of the proceeding,” says Sciandra.
Sciandria argued Stankewitz's mental competency but his client was never evaluated. Shortly after, Sciandria says Stankewitz hit him and he was taken off the case. “He was an impulsive person, immature unfortunately. It was that impulsiveness that caused him to be on trial in the first place.”
It's Stankewitz's mental health and abusive childhood that are giving him a chance to appeal his death sentence. “The case today is based off the second attorney's failure to pursue the issue of competency and to provide proper investigations into his past,” says Sciandria.
Stankewitz has twice been given the death penalty and twice it has been reversed. In Monday's hearing, Stankewitz asked a panel of judges to uphold a 2009 court decision; it would release him from the death penalty and instead give him life in prison. A panel of judges has not yet decided the inmate’s fate; it could take weeks or even months to finalize a decision.
Stankewitz was convicted of murder in 1978. He was found guilty of murdering 22-year-old Theresa Greybeal. According to court documents, Stankewitz and 2 friends kidnapped Greybeal, stole her car and drove with her in it to Fresno. They robbed her and Stankewitz's friends testify he shot her point blank in the head bragging “Did I drop her or did I drop her?”
30 years after the murder, the case continues. Attorney's and the victim’s family hope this is the last appeal so the case can be closed.
Some Attorneys are hoping to do away with the death penalty; they say the appeals process is too expensive. Its cost the state around $4 billion since it was reinstated in 1978.