• A federal appeals court ordered a new death penalty trial for Douglas Ray Stankewitz, who will have a new attorney after complaints to a local court.
• Stankewitz’s former attorney took the change in strade, saying it’s “just Stankewitz.”
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• Stankewitz has been on death row longer than any other inmate.
Death-row inmate Douglas Ray Stankewitz has a new attorney for the pending third retrial of his death sentence, with Richard Beshwate out and Phillip Cherney in.
Fresno County Superior Court Judge Arlan L. Harrell approved the change after a closed-door hearing Wednesday morning.
The hearing was initially scheduled because Stankewitz wanted to dump Beshwate and represent himself, and Harrell asked if that was still the case.
“I don’t want counsel,” Stankewitz said. “That’s just the bottom line.”
But a moment later, after Harrell pressed some more, Stankewitz amended his request, nodding at Beshwate and saying, “I don’t want this guy.”
With that, Harrell closed the hearing and when he reopened it, he announced that Cherney would take over as Stankewitz’s legal counsel.
Stankewitz, now 56, was 19 when he was convicted of fatally shooting 22-year-old Theresa Graybeal in Fresno in February 1978.
The California Supreme Court overturned Stankewitz’s first death sentence in 1982. The following year, he was again convicted and sentenced death, but that didn’t hold up, either. In 2012, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the death sentence because of incompetent legal representation. The court didn’t overturn his murder conviction. It only ruled that a new jury should determine if Stankewitz remains on death row or is instead sentenced to spend life in prison without parole.
He has been on California’s death row longer than any other inmate.
Beshwate took the change in stride, but said it was frustrating to be unable to see the case through to its end. He said it wasn’t anything he did, but instead was “just Stankewitz.”