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.
My musings on current events, current projects, current anxieties and current delights.
I started this under the Bush regime when any grain of sand thrown into the gears of the over-reaching imperial state seemed worthwhile.
I have worked to elect more and better Democrats -- and to hammer the shit out of them once we get them in office so they do the things their constituents want and need. It's a big job.
I have endured the dashed potential for a more transformational regime under Obama. The man has made himself an accomplice in the imperial crimes of his predecessor as well as committing his own. He has also almost certainly been the most progressive president most of us will live to see. I fear we'll look back on his years in office with mild gratitude for a respite from national leadership that was habitually stupid and vicious, as well as wrong.
Visitors here will find a lot of commentary on books I'm reading. I am very intentionally reading intensively offline these days. When it feels hard to find direction, it's time to learn something new.
I'm a progressive political activist who runs trails and climbs mountains whenever any are available. I've had the privilege to work for justice in Central America (Nicaragua and El Salvador), in South Africa, in the fields of California with the United Farmworkers Union, and in the cities and schools of my own country. I'm a Christian of the Episcopalian flavor; we think and argue a lot. For work, I've done a bit of it all: run an old fashioned switch-board; remodeled buildings and poured concrete; edited and published periodicals, reports and books; and organized for electoral campaigns. I am currently an independent consultant to organizations seeking "help when you have to make a fight."