August 12, 2005 in Idaho

Duncan lawyer stops cop interviews

Staff writer
 
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Background and the latest updates

Duncan case

Arraignment Aug. 23

Any new jailhouse revelations are unlikely to come from Joseph E. Duncan III until after his trial on murder and kidnapping charges.

Shortly after Duncan was arrested July 1 in connection with the Groene murder case, he shared information with authorities that implicated him in the deaths of two Seattle girls and a Riverside County, Calif., boy, law enforcement sources have told The Spokesman-Review.

Meanwhile, other agencies around the country are re-examining unsolved missing children cases and wanting to question Duncan, too.

But Public Defender John Adams recently put a stop to visits to the jail from FBI agents and other investigators.

Three weeks ago, he got a temporary order from 1st District Judge John Luster to prohibit sheriff’s jailers from approaching Duncan with requests from law enforcement for interviews.

In a hearing following the temporary order, Adams complained to Luster that after Duncan asserted his right to remain silent and to counsel, “they (jail personnel) are continuing to contact my client, despite his invocation. ‘These policemen from Riverside are here, they have photographs and questions for you. How about talking to them? The FBI is back, Mr. Duncan, how about talking to them?’

“So this is a continuing and ongoing thing,” Adams said.

Chief Deputy Prosecutor Lansing Haynes argued that Duncan’s right to counsel is specific to particular charges, so that Duncan wouldn’t necessarily have a right to an attorney if questioned on other cases.

Adams countered that the right to remain silent applies to all cases, charged or not, and must be honored.

“You can’t go in day after day, asking ‘have you changed your mind, have you changed your mind,’ ” he said. “He’s invoked and they’re not respecting that.”

Duncan currently is charged in the murders of Brenda Groene, Slade Groene and Mark McKenzie, who were bound with duct tape and zip ties and bludgeoned to death with a hammer. Duncan also is expected to be charged with federal kidnapping and murder for the abduction of 8-year-old Shasta Groene, and abduction and murder of her 9-year-old brother Dylan Groene.

Dozens of FBI investigators rotate through the basement of the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office, where they are working nonstop on the case, and on other child abduction cases possibly involving Duncan elsewhere in the country.

Adams also expressed concern that information Duncan divulged to investigators could impede his ability to get a fair trial.

“In this case, there’s been a lot of publicity,” he told Luster. “If there are statements, they’re going to come out in the press. I don’t know if we can get a fair jury now, but after these things come out, we’re never going to get a fair jury.”

Prior to the order, Duncan would refuse to talk, but then start talking to investigators anyway, sources said.

Haynes more successfully argued that the “writ of mandate” that Adams was seeking to stop the Sheriff’s Office from approaching Duncan was not the appropriate legal tool.

Luster agreed, and on Wednesday issued an order quashing the temporary writ. However, the sheriff has heeded Adams’ stern reminder that “Duncan has unequivocably invoked his rights to not be contacted by law enforcement seeking to question him without the presence of counsel.”

Since then, Adams said Thursday, he’s unaware of any jail staff approaching Duncan with more interview requests or delivering business cards from investigators.

Adams also declined to respond to recent reports about Duncan making statements that connect him to the 1996 Seattle-area murders of Sammiejo White, 11, and her sister, Carmen Cubias, 9, or the murder of 10-year-old Anthony Martinez of Riverside County, Calif.

A Riverside County Sheriffs’ Department spokesman told The Spokesman-Review that Duncan did talk to investigators in mid-July. Although he didn’t say much and didn’t confess to the murders, Duncan did mention Anthony’s name and said he’d been in Southern California, according to the official.

Duncan is a suspect in the murder since a partial fingerprint found on duct tape used to bind the boy was positively identified as Duncan’s, the Riverside County Sheriff and FBI announced last week.

But anyone trying to question Duncan may be having more difficulty since July 22, when the temporary order was issued. And even though the order is no longer in effect, Sheriff Rocky Watson is behaving as if it were.

“This is not a big deal to us,” Watson said. “We don’t want to talk to him. We don’t want to give him any excuse to appeal. … He’s in custody. He’s off the street. There’s plenty of time for these other agencies with missing children. I know they’re anxious to solve their cases, but there’s time.”

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