A court hearing on whether condemned murderer Joseph Duncan was mentally competent when he waived his right to appeal his death sentence has been set for Jan. 8, 2013. “There will be no extension … of the Jan. 8 date,” U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge said this morning as he set the hearing. Lodge appointed Michael Burt, a death penalty expert from San Francisco with expertise in mental health issues, as Duncan's attorney for the hearing.
The judge had hoped to set the hearing earlier, first looking at July and then October, but Burt isn't available until December. Lodge said he set the January timing “to avoid any holiday issues with potential witnesses.”
In 2008, a federal jury sentenced Duncan to death for the 2005 kidnap, torture and murder of a 9-year-old North Idaho boy; he also received nine life sentences for a murderous attack on the child's family that left three other people dead. After Duncan declined to appeal his death sentence and represented himself in court at his Idaho sentencing trial in 2008, his standby attorneys filed an appeal for him against his will. Duncan now says he's changed his mind and wants to appeal the sentence; he pleaded guilty to all the charges.
However, in court filings, federal prosecutors noted, “Whether the defendant now wishes to appeal, and whether he was incompetent at the time he waived his right to appeal, are separate issues. Only the second issue is before the Court.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.