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Sirens & Gavels

Convicted killer backs out of pro se plan

Convicted killer Joseph Edward Duncan, already condemned to die for a murderous North Idaho rampage in 2005 and about to stand trial in California for an earlier slaying, has reconsidered plans to represent himself in the new death penalty case.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge David Downing on Monday appointed Gail O’Rane, an attorney from the Riverside County public defender’s Capital Defense Unit, after Duncan said he had changed his mind about representing himself.

Neither Duncan nor his newly appointed attorney gave a reason for why he wanted an attorney. He requested to represent himself last year after a jury ruled he was fit to stand trial and capable of assisting an attorney. (Duncan is pictured at right, photo by Stan Lim of The Press-Enterprise)

Duncan was brought to Indio, Calif., in January 2009 to face murder and torture charges in the 1997 death of Anthony Martinez, a 10-year-old boy from Beaumont, Calif., who was taken at knifepoint and discovered 10 days later beaten to death with a rock and bound in duct tape.

Duncan was extradited to Southern California after being given nine life terms and three death sentences for the murder of an Idaho family and the kidnapping, torture and murder of a little boy. Brenda Groene, Slade Groene and Mark McKenzie were beat to death at the family’s Wolf Lodge Bay home; and 9-year-old Dylan Groene, who was abducted along with his 8-year-old sister, Shasta Groene, was shot and killed at a Montana campground after being tortured in a cabin. Shasta was rescued at a Coeur d’Alene restaurant, where Duncan was apprehended.

Read the full story by John Asbury at the Riverside Press-Enterprise by clicking the link below


An Indio judge appointed an attorney today for a convicted killer charged with the 1997 abduction and killing of a 10-year-old Beaumont boy.

Joseph Edward Duncan III requested a public defender more than a year after battling with the court to represent himself in his death penalty trial.

Duncan appeared in an Indio courtroom, sitting in the jury box, while wearing an orange jail uniform beneath a tan bulletproof vest. He has been acting as his own attorney for the past year.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge David Downing appointed Gail O’Rane, an attorney from the Riverside County public defender’s Capital Defense Unit, after Duncan said he had changed his mind about representing himself.

Neither Duncan nor his newly appointed attorney gave a reason for why he wanted an attorney. He requested to represent himself last year following a competency trial, in which after a jury ruled he was fit to stand trial and capable of assisting an attorney.

“I reluctantly let you represent yourself because you met the criteria,” Downing said. “A pro-per defendant in a capital case is every judge’s worst nightmare because we’re worried about providing an adequate defense.”

Duncan was brought to Indio, Calif., in January 2009 to face murder and torture charges in the 1997 death of Anthony Martinez, a 10-year-old boy from Beaumont, Calif., who was taken at knifepoint and discovered 10 days later beaten to death with a rock and bound in duct tape.

Duncan was extradited to Southern California after being given nine life terms and three death sentences in connection with the murder of an Idaho family and the kidnapping, torture and murder of a little boy.

Brenda Groene, Slade Groene and Mark McKenzie were beaten to death with a hammer at the family’s Wolf Lodge Bay home; and 9-year-old Dylan Groene, who was abducted along with his 8-year-old sister, Shasta Groene, was shot and killed at a Montana campground after being tortured in a cabin. Shasta was rescued at a Coeur d’Alene restaurant, where Duncan was apprehended.

Downing said he would like to see the Indio case go to trial by September, though a tentative February trial date remains. Deputy District Attorney Otis Sterling said he was surprised by Duncan’s request and was unsure how the appointment of a new defense attorney would affect the case.

“It’s anyone’s guess whether this case can go sooner or if it’ll be extended,” Sterling said. “He may have realized how difficult it is for someone to represent themselves than it was in Idaho.”

Last year, the public defender asked to be relieved from the case when the judge tried to appoint attorneys as standby-counsel, ready to take over the case at a moment’s notice if Duncan did change his mind.

Instead, the judge appointed a private investigator for Duncan, paid $75 per hour, and purchased a $2,800 laptop with county funds.

Now that the public defender has been appointed, the laptop will be returned and the investigator will be relieved.

Duncan said during today’s hearing that he was concerned about the investigator getting paid.

The judge said he would be paid for his work while on the case.

“The county has spent a lot of money on this case,” Downing said.


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