BY ART BUKOWSKI
A Benzie County murder suspect's father worries his son won't get a fair trial unless a judge lets him switch attorneys.
Deshawn Stanton, 26, is held on an open count of murder in the May 6 shooting death of his wife, Stephanie Stanton, 28. He told a judge he needs a new court-appointed attorney because his current attorney, Jane Johnson, berates him and appears to have no interest in defending him.
Benzie District Judge Nancy Kida approved that request, but Circuit Court Judge James Batzer later overturned it. That upset Stanton's father, Larry Stanton.
"If you were fighting for your freedom, wouldn't you want a fair trial?" he said. "They've got to give him somebody who wants to fight for him."
Larry Stanton, who keeps in contact with his son, said Johnson is disrespectful to Deshawn Stanton and encouraged him to plead guilty.
"This lady told Deshawn she'd rather be out fishing than wasting her time with him," he said.
Johnson, who's based in Onekama, wouldn't talk about the Stantons' allegations.
"I'm not going to discuss it," she said. "As far as I'm concerned, there's no problem."
Batzer's order states he overturned Kida's ruling because Kida doesn't have the authority to make decisions on attorney appointments in felony cases.
His ruling also explicitly states that Stanton will have the ability to ask for a new attorney if he's bound over to circuit court for trial.
A preliminary examination will be held in district court to determine if there's enough evidence to bind Stanton over for trial. A judge ordered that he undergo a psychiatric evaluation, and he remains in the Benzie County Jail pending that evaluation.
Benzie County authorities believe Deshawn shot and killed Stephanie Stanton in a residence along Cinder Road in Benzie County's Homestead Township.
Authorities received a 911 call from Deshawn's sister shortly before 5 a.m., Benzie Sheriff Rory Heckman said. The sister told authorities Stephanie committed suicide, but investigators had reason to believe otherwise.
The gun involved was a long gun, Heckman said, which is difficult to use in a suicide. And when a medical examiner took a look at Stephanie's body, he determined the wound that caused her death was fired from a far enough distance away to rule out suicide.
Larry Stanton is adamant that Deshawn loved Stephanie and would never hurt her.
Stephanie Stanton's family couldn't be reached for comment.