Support for the death penalty has been slipping in California. It's now at its lowest level in 40 years, partly on moral grounds. But a major part of it is that our system of carrying out a death sentence is seriously broken. Case in point -- Gerald Stanley.
Jay Stanley told the I-Team's Dan Noyes, "I'm not afraid of nobody in this world except for my dad."
Jay was five years old and his sister was six years old, as they headed to school on a Tuesday morning with their mother, Kathleen, at the wheel. When they pulled into Concord's Cambridge Elementary, their father jumped in the passenger door and opened fire.
Jay: "I remember hearing the shots and I remember him dragging my sister out of the car and I remember chasing them."
Noyes: "He left you?"
Jay: "I don't know."
Jay ran back to the school all alone, to see his mom on the ground beneath a white sheet: "And he always claimed to love me and my sister so much, but yet he had no problem killing my mom."
Stanley, a professional hunting guide, spent just 4.5 years in prison. Within months of getting out, his new wife, Diana Lynn, went missing in Tehama County.
That same year, his next wife, Cindy Rogers, was about to report Stanley's physical abuse. That would violate his parole, so he staked out her father's resort in Lake County with a high-powered rifle, and shot her from across the highway as she sat by the pool with her son.
The I-Team obtained a police interview in which Stanley said, "Someone killed my wife."
Detective: "That's right."
Stanley: "And I didn't do it."
Stanley denied the murder, but got convicted. During sentencing, prosecutors connected him to another woman, Ranee' Wright, found dead that same summer, tossed in an oil well.
Lake County District Attorney Don Anderson told Noyes, "He was a very cold blooded, heartless killer."
Anderson worked the case as a young deputy sheriff. Now, he's the prosecutor trying to get Stanley's death sentence confirmed. Stanley has been on death row 32 years.
"Either you abolish the death penalty or you enforce it," Anderson said. "There's no sense having it if you are not going to use it."
For years and years, Stanley has had two competing teams of attorneys. His court-appointed federal defenders are filing appeals to keep him alive. But, his private attorney is fighting to follow Stanley's desire to die.
Stanley even sent a letter to the judge, offering to reveal where he buried Lynn's body if the state would set an execution date.
Gerald Uelmen, Santa Clara University Law Professor, believes, "There's something wrong with the system where the death penalty just becomes a form of suicide."
Uelmen is an expert on evidence. His most famous client was O.J. Simpson. He also headed a 4-year study into "flaws in California's death penalty system that render it dysfunctional." The panel recommended many changes, including finding more, competent attorneys for death penalty cases and increasing funding. The study that cost a $1 million was published in 2008.
Noyes: "What improvements have been made?"
Uelmen: "Nothing, the report has been filed away on the shelves of legislators. They have not addressed any of the problems."
So death penalty cases such as Stanley's drag on, an average of more than 30 years in California, from sentencing to execution. The national average is half that.
Jay told Noyes if his father had been put to death decades ago, it would have provided some closure. Now that Stanley wants to die, Jay would like him to just sit there and suffer.
"It just seem like he's trying to get the easy way out now and I don't want that," Jay told Dan Noyes. My mom didn't get the easy way out and I don't think he should."
The state last put someone to death in 2006. There are competing measures on the November ballot -- one from prosecutors to streamline the process, the other to abolish the death penalty. So, you'll have a chance to weigh in at the polls.
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