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Child-killer Joseph Duncan still fighting death sentence

Joseph Duncan is shown in court in 2011, when he was sentenced to two life terms for the 1997 abduction and murder of a California boy. In 2008, Duncan was sentenced to death three times over for his 2005 crimes against a North Idaho family. He’s now on federal death row, but appeals of his death sentence continue. (Terry Pierson / AP/Press-Enterprise)
Joseph Duncan is shown in court in 2011, when he was sentenced to two life terms for the 1997 abduction and murder of a California boy. In 2008, Duncan was sentenced to death three times over for his 2005 crimes against a North Idaho family. He’s now on federal death row, but appeals of his death sentence continue. (Terry Pierson / AP/Press-Enterprise)

Although child-killer Joseph Duncan waived his right to appeal his triple death sentence for the 2005 kidnapping, torture and murder of a 9-year-old North Idaho boy, Duncan, through a team of attorneys, is now pressing a series of continued challenges. That’s in part because more than two years after Duncan waived his appeals, he changed his mind. Courts said it was too late for his direct appeal, but he’s now in the midst of the next stage, his habeas filings, in which his attorneys can challenge aspects of his conviction and sentencing on constitutional grounds. These challenges start in the U.S. District Court but can be then appealed again to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Duncan’s case already has been to the U.S. Supreme Court twice; the high court refused to review it each time.

Last week, federal prosecutors in Idaho filed their legal arguments responding to Duncan’s 231-page “motion for collateral relief,” which his attorneys filed last winter. “None of Duncan’s contentions have merit,” prosecutors wrote in their conclusion, after going through, in detail, Duncan’s arguments on various legal and procedural grounds.

Duncan’s attorneys are raising arguments ranging from questioning the constitutionality of the death penalty to suggestions that Spokane attorney Roger Peven’s early withdrawal from Duncan’s case due to unrelated personal problems sabotaged Duncan’s case – even though the confessed murderer and child rapist pleaded guilty to all the charges, including multiple murder charges. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.



Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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