October 20, 2005 in Idaho

Duncan used kids to make porn videos

Taryn Brodwater Staff writer
 
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Duncan
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Suspected serial killer Joseph Duncan used his young captives to produce child pornography videos, authorities acknowledged for the first time Wednesday.

The disclosure came amid heated confrontations between prosecutors and defense lawyers over access to evidence seized by Kootenai County sheriff’s deputies in the kidnapping and quadruple homicide case that has drawn national attention.

Duncan, 42, is charged with killing three members of an Idaho family in mid-May so he could abduct Shasta Groene, 8, and Dylan Groene, 9, for sex. Investigators say he later killed Dylan, whose cremated remains were found near a remote campsite in Montana where Duncan allegedly held the children. Shasta was rescued about six weeks later at a Coeur d’Alene diner, where she was recognized by staff and patrons.

In court Wednesday, 1st District Judge Fred Gibler ordered the state to make copies of the videos and other images for Duncan’s defense team, despite Prosecutor Bill Douglas’ concerns about “inadvertent or accidental dissemination” of the materials.

As a safeguard, Gibler placed strict limits on who in the defender’s office can have access to the images and also ordered that the videos be encrypted and stored in a locked safe.

Douglas said the disagreement involved two digital video clips, each 10 to 15 minutes long, which were seized from the stolen Jeep Duncan was driving at the time of his arrest. He said he has no problem with copying for the defense team other still images or digital information taken into evidence.

If the defense needed to see the video clips, or wanted to show the material to expert witnesses, Douglas said the state could arrange that. Douglas compared the images to contraband like drugs or weapons.

“In no other case do we share contraband with the defense,” Douglas said.

But Public Defender John Adams said the defense is entitled to the evidence and shouldn’t have to review the videos in the presence of police or prosecutors. He dismissed Douglas’ argument that the defense shouldn’t have copies because the images are illegal.

Adams said that if it violates the law to have the images, then the lead detective in the case should be arrested.

“There’s nothing in the law that says cops can possess child porn, but no one else can,” Adams said. “There’s nothing in the law that says prosecutors can possess child porn, but no one else can.”

Adams also asked Wednesday for a detailed list of what investigators found stored on the electronic equipment in Duncan’s Jeep. Though Douglas said that the defense had been shown all of the still pictures and videos that were seized as evidence, Adams said he wasn’t sure he had.

Douglas said there were two digital video clips. But Adams said he had been told by law enforcement that there were up to 15 videos and hundreds of photographs.

Last month, federal prosecutors said Duncan may face charges for allegedly producing child pornography while holding Dylan and Shasta Groene at remote campsites in western Montana. The federal case, which will likely include charges for kidnapping and Dylan Groene’s murder, won’t be tried until after Duncan’s trial in Kootenai County.

According to court documents, authorities seized a digital camera, digital video camera, laptop computers, DVDs and digital memory cards from the Jeep. In obtaining a warrant to search the computer, cameras and memory cards, sheriff’s Detective Brad Maskell said authorities believed they may hold evidence of homicide, kidnapping, child sexual abuse and child pornography.

Douglas told the Associated Press this week that the images are “graphic and disturbing.”

He said the state has kept the images under encryption to protect Shasta Groene and her family, as well as Duncan’s right to a fair trial.

On Wednesday, he asked Gibler to make that a condition of his order allowing the material to be copied. Adams agreed that his office would encrypt its copy.

Gibler also ordered that Duncan not have a copy of the material, that the defense must keep its copy locked in a safe in its office at all times, that access be restricted to Adams and Chief Deputy Public Defender Lynn Nelson and that no additional copies be made.

Once the trial is over, Gibler said, the defense must return its copy to the prosecutor’s office so it can be destroyed.

Duncan waived his right to attend Wednesday’s hearing, according to his attorneys.


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