Saturday, 25 May 2024

Judge turns down Stanley attorney request

LAKE COUNTY – A man who has been on death row for more than 24 years for a murder he committed in Lake County lost his bid to have a new attorney assigned to his case on Thursday.


The case of Gerald Frank Stanley, 63, was before Butte County Superior Court Judge Steven Howell on Thursday morning.


Stanley was sentenced to death in February of 1984 for the murder of his wife, Cynthia, who he shot while she sat with her father at his resort in Nice in August of 1980.


This past March, a federal judge ruled that a new competency hearing needed to be held to determine whether or not Stanley was mentally fit to stand trial decades ago.


The Stanley case was moved to Butte County for trial due to pretrial publicity, as Lake County News has reported.


On Thursday, District Attorney Jon Hopkins was in Oroville for a hearing in which Hayward attorney Jack Leavitt was seeking to be appointed Stanley's attorney in place of public defender Dennis Hoptowit.


Hopkins said the hearing took quite a while, as Stanley's extensive appellate court history was discussed.


In a phone interview this week, Stanley told Lake County News that he wanted Leavitt – who he has worked with for several years – appointed to take over his case.


Leavitt, who Lake County News also spoke with this week, traveled to Oroville in the hopes of being appointed to represent Stanley.


Both men have stated that they are seeking to shut down the appeals process for Stanley, who said he wishes to have an execution date.


Stanley anticipated being able to speak via conference call at the Thursday hearing.


However, Judge Howell didn't choose to have Stanley phone in, and dismissed Leavitt's attempt to replace Hoptowit, said Hopkins.


That decision, said Hopkins, was based on Stanley's past actions and a perceived lack of credibility. “He seems to change his mind drastically about his lawyers.”


The federal court also stated that it believed Stanley is manipulating and delaying the case, said Hopkins.


The judge found no indication that Stanley really wanted to substitute in another lawyer, said Hopkins.


“Stanley has had too many manipulative bites at the apple,” said Hopkins.


That means that Hoptowit will remain Stanley's attorney.


However Hoptowit is about to begin a murder trial, said Hopkins, so his availability may be limited for some time.


Hopkins said a status conference on the case is scheduled for Nov. 4 at 1:30 p.m.


At that time they will discuss whether they can hold a retrospective competency hearing in Stanley's case.


Whether or not the case can be moved back to Lake County – which Hopkins believes is possible after the passage of more than two decades – is still up in the air.


The competency hearing itself may be difficult to hold this year, said Hopkins.


Leavitt could not be reached for comment on Thursday.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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