Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Come on Californians -- this isn't working …

Or worth the insane cost! From the Wall Street Journal Law Blog today:

A federal appeals court set aside the capital sentence of California’s longest-serving death row inmate on Monday. The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit tracked that of a lower court, which found that a lawyer for Douglas Ray Stankewitz failed to investigate circumstances leading up to the murder of Theresa Greybeal – namely Mr. Stankewitz’s abusive childhood and long history of substance abuse.

Mr. Stankewitz, a Native American, has been on death row in California since 1978, when he was convicted in the kidnapping and murder of Ms. Greybeal. (He was one of the first people sentenced to death after the state reinstated capital punishment in 1978. Thirteen people have been executed since then.)

In a 2-1 decision Monday, the Ninth Circuit upheld a court order that Mr. Stankewitz’s death sentence be vacated unless California officials seek to retry the capital phase of his case within 90 days or resentence him to life without parole.

“We are faced, however, with a situation in which counsel’s failure to investigate and present mitigating evidence cannot be rationalized on any tactical ground,” Judge Raymond C. Fisher wrote in the opinion, saying Mr. Stankewitz’s lawyer at the time failed to conduct the “most basic investigation” of his client’s background.

My emphasis. Let's just vote for Prop. 34 and skip the rigamarole.

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