Wednesday, April 16, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Mom’s death in Vallejo ends former death row inmate’s freedom

Dennis Stanworth

Dennis Stanworth gestures during his appearance at the Solano County Superior Court in Fairfield, Calif. on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013. Languishing on death row for brutally raping a series of victims before killing two teen girls he picked up hitchhiking, Stanworth pleaded with the courts to get on with his execution. "I have dishonored my family's name," he wrote the California Supreme Court in asking for his appeals to be dropped and his lawyer fired. He was paroled in 1990. On Wednesday, Vallejo police arrested him for the murder of his mother. (AP Photo/The Times-Herald, Mike Jory)

SAN FRANCISCO — Languishing on Death Row for a series of brutal rapes culminating in the 1966 killing of two teen girls he picked up hitchhiking, Dennis Stanworth pleaded with California’s highest court to get on with his execution.

“I have dishonored my family’s name,” he wrote the California Supreme Court in asking for his appeals to be dropped. “Please be merciful and give me an endless sleep as soon as you can…”

That was 40 years ago. On Wednesday, police arrested him at his Vallejo home for the murder of his mother, 23 years after he walked out of prison on parole even though two separate juries decided he should be executed.

On Friday, the Solano County District Attorney charged him with one count of first-degree murder for the death of his 90-year-old mother. Investigators found her body at Stanworth’s house on Wednesday but believe she was killed in early November.

Records show that Stanworth’s improbable path from Death Row prisoner to a freed registered sex occurred through a series of legal rulings, as California courts were grappling with the constitutionality of capital punishment.

In 1969, his case broke important legal ground when the California Supreme Court rejected his plea to drop his appeal. That decision still bars condemned inmates from waiving their automatic appeals of their death sentences.

Citing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the state court also overturned his death sentence because 12 potential jurors were automatically excluded for stating their opposition to capital punishment. During a retrial, a second jury sentenced him to death.

Stanworth’s biggest break came in 1972 when the state Supreme Court struck down California’s death penalty as cruel and unusual punishment. As a result, Stanworth, Charles Manson, Sirhan Sirhan and 104 other Death Row inmates had their death sentences converted to life in prison.

At that time, however, the harshest penalty for first-degree murder was life with the chance of parole, rather than life without parole. So Stanworth was allowed to apply for parole, which he did unsuccessfully four times between 1974 and 1978.

Then in 1979, he hit pay dirt. The state’s parole board gave Stanworth a date for release, saying he could leave prison sometime in 1990 after serving 23 years, four months and nine days. The board said he was entitled to release for five main reasons, according to yet another Supreme Court ruling in 1982 considering his parole:

– Excellent personal progress in prison, including earning an associate degree in data processing.

– No major disciplinary problems.

– Positive psychologist reports

– Realistic parole plans, aided by a $12,000 educational trust fund set up for him and $3,000 in a personal savings account.

– And, finally, he was granted release because of “a lack of prior serious criminal history or history of violent conduct.”

He was paroled in February 1990 and later moved to Vallejo.

Because of the previous murder convictions, Stanworth is again eligible for the death penalty. Deputy district attorney Karen Jensen said her office would decide later whether that would be pursued.

Stanworth didn’t enter plea at his court appearance Friday, but blurted out that he was guilty and that this was his “third time,” Jensen said. She said his attorney admonished him to keep quiet and the judge ordered him back to court Jan. 18 without commenting on the outburst.

The Associated Press asked the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation how someone with Stanworth’s criminal history, including three rapes of young women prior to raping and killing the two teen hitchhikers, could have been paroled with a finding that he had no history of violent conduct.

CDCR spokesman Luis Patino said Friday that because the case is so old it may take weeks to obtain Stanworth’s complete parole file.

Parole boards had more leeway in those days to grant parole than they do now, legal experts say.

“The exercise of parole discretion is the key here,” Stanford University law professor Robert Weisberg said. “Surely there are some cases where a guy who’s served 18 years could merit release if he’s behaved well.”

Kent Scheidegger, chief lawyer for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a conservative legal interest nonprofit, said the Stanworth case underscores the danger in offering the chance of parole to violent and serious criminals.

“The reality is that some of them are still dangerous and they are going to commit crimes again,” Scheidegger said. “It’s inevitable.”

At least one other of the other 106 inmates who had their death sentences converted to life with the possibility of parole were freed from prison and later committed a violent crime.

Robert Lee Massie was paroled in 1978, 13 years after being sentenced to death for robbing and killing a woman in her front yard. Massie was executed by lethal injection on March 27, 2001, for the 1979 robbery and shooting death of a liquor store owner.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

 
 
 
Suisun police ID shooting victim

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3, 6 Comments

 
Solano Jews gather for start of Passover

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
 
County discusses consolidated dispatch

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4

 
Miner Slough Bridge to see repairs

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4

 
‘Heaven is for Real’ opens Wednesday

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B5

 
Fiesta Days pageant organizers seek contestants

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

 
Easter hunt set for Mare Island

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5

 
Crews make quick work of vehicle fire

By Glen Faison | From Page: A6, 6 Comments | Gallery

 
Paper Clover Campaign supports Solano County 4-H

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A6

Coakley joins Solano fair board

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A6

 
Hundreds flock to Krispy Kreme as it opens doors

By Susan Winlow | From Page: B9, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
County to honor Solano educators

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A14, 1 Comment

.

US / World

Officials: Huge San Francisco blaze was accidental

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
‘Shrimp Boy’ pleads not guilty in corruption case

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

Solemn tributes mark Boston Marathon bombing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Immigration activists urge Obama to act boldly

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

Supremacist faces murder charges in Kansas deaths

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Ukraine: Military secures airport from attack

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Democrats have outside money advantage – for now

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14, 3 Comments

 
First women move into Army platoon artillery jobs

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Final deadline arrives for health exchange sign-up

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
New LA newspaper embraces print in digital world

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Congress is giving states the transportation blues

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14, 2 Comments

 
Police: Suspects in killings wore GPS devices

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14, 1 Comment

DNA alternative to Pap smear sparks medical debate

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Robot sub returns to water after 1st try cut short

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Hamas praises deadly West Bank shooting

By The Associated Press | From Page: A15

 
2 dead after ferry sinks off SKorean coast

By The Associated Press | From Page: A15

.

Opinion

 
Oh, for the days of Dr. Welby

By Dan K. Thomasson | From Page: A13, 13 Comments

Poor Judgement in Flight 370 column

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A13, 1 Comment

 
Senseless babble that hurts

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A13, 2 Comments

 
Expand Red Top Road

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A13, 2 Comments

Editorial cartoons for April 16, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A13

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: April 16, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
What love gives you

By Barton Goldsmith | From Page: A2

Today in History for April 16, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
A matzo ball soup fit for a weeknight dinner

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Saving carrots from their usual sugary Easter fate

By Sara Moulton | From Page: B6

 
Sweet pairings for grown-up Easter treats

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

My husband still pays his 45-year-old unemployed son’s bills

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B7

 
Horoscopes for April 16, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B7

.

Entertainment

Boston Globe wins Pulitzer for bombing coverage

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Lindsay Lohan’s mom pleads guilty to DWI in NY

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

Strahan’s ‘GMA’ side job confirmed with his visit

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

.

Sports

Cal hires Tennessee’s Cuonzo Martin as coach

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Warriors trying to move on without Andrew Bogut

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Sharks’ Torres uncertain for playoff opener

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Indians shut out Mustangs

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1, 1 Comment | Gallery

Ex-Minnesota State, Mankato coach returning to job

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Panthers jump Sabres to win NHL draft lottery

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

More former players sue NHL regarding concussions

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
49ers sign WR Brandon Lloyd to 1-year deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

MLB marks 67th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
.

Business

Twitter buys data analytics partner Gnip

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Yellen signals more aggressive stance toward banks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

.

Obituaries

Carolyn McClelland

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Evonne Medina

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

.

Comics

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7