Douglas Stankewitz, the longest serving prisoner on California’s death row, was re-sentenced to life without parole last Friday. Stankewitz, who is 60, was sentenced to death in 1978 when he was 19.
In 2012, when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Stankewitz’s death sentence, agreeing with a district court that he had had ineffective assistance of counsel during the penalty phase, the Fresno County DA’s office indicated it would again seek the death penalty in a retrial of the sentencing phase. But late last month, the DA’s office changed course and agreed to life in prison without parole.
Stankewitz was convicted of the 1978 murder and kidnap of 22-year-old Theresa Greybeal. Prosecutors say he and three other men kidnapped Greybeal in Modesto and drove her to Fresno, where they allege Stankewitz shot and killed her.
He was tried twice, and found guilty in both trials. The California Supreme Court overturned his first conviction because his competency to stand trial was never addressed. He was declared competent to be tried a second time, and was again convicted and sentenced to death. But in 2009, a federal judge reversed his death sentence and the Ninth Circuit agreed in 2012, stating that the mitigation presentation barely touched on Stankewitz’s extremely troubled childhood.
Stankewitz suffered horrific physical, psychological, and sexual abuse from the day he was born. He was removed from his home when he was six years old and was institutionalized, where he was drugged and abused again. He was in and out of foster homes and different institutions for years. He may be intellectually disabled with an estimated IQ of 79.