Joseph Duncan, his voice low and sometimes cracking slightly, said “guilty” 10 times in response to questions from U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge about each of the 10 federal charges against him, three of which carry the death penalty. First, the charges were read, and their stark and graphic details put a chill over the nearly full courtroom. They say that Duncan, 44, kidnapped an 8-year-old girl and her 9-year-old brother from their home near Coeur d’Alene and drove them to a remote campsite in Montana where he molested both for weeks and eventually killed the little boy in June of 2005. The kidnappings, which followed Duncan’s already confessed bloody murder of the children’s mother, mother’s fiancée and older brother, came after months of planning in which Duncan purchased videotaping equipment and stole a car and gun in April, all of which he used in the crime.
Duncan, his wispy hair now grown near shoulder-length and beginning to go gray in a curl near his ear, sat between two of his lawyers, clad in a bright orange jumpsuit. He told the judge, “I will speak as honestly and as truthfully as I know how.”
Before making his plea, Duncan said he wanted to make a statement. “I just wanted to say that since my arrest, I have never attempted to deny responsibility,” he told the court. “… I have ... already confessed a long time ago. … I brought the child S.G. (that’s how the young girl, Shasta Groene, is identified in court documents) home and allowed myself to be arrested. … My plea today is to me little more than a long overdue formality.” Duncan said he’ll take responsibility for his crimes “to the death.”
However, he’s not signed onto any plea bargain, he’s just pleaded guilty. It’ll be up to a federal jury to decide if he gets the death penalty on the three capital offenses to which he’s admitted. After that’s done, Judge Lodge will sentence him on the remaining charges.
The prosecution and defense had agreed on a “recitation” of the facts in the case, which included a lengthy description of Duncan’s actions – and the fact that after young Shasta, the sole survivor of the attack on her family, was rescued from Duncan at a Denney’s restaurant in Coeur d’Alene, lab testing identified Duncan as her abuser.