Duncan trial delayed again

Joseph Duncan’s triple-murder trial has been postponed until Oct. 16.

“No one wants to try this case twice, including me,” 1st District Judge Fred Gibler said Thursday in granting Duncan’s attorneys a six-month extension.

Duncan, who is charged with killing three Coeur d’Alene-area residents last May, waived his right to be present at the hearing.

Following the hearing, Duncan’s defense attorney said he was pleased with the judge’s decision. Kootenai County Public Defender John Adams raised the possibility that a plea agreement could be reached, sparing the victims’ families a lengthy trial.

“If you want to have this case in the county for at least another 20 years, keep asking for death,” Adams said. “If you want to spend money on it for the next 20 years, keep asking for death. If you want Shasta Groene to have this case in her life for 20 years, keep asking for death.”

“If you want it all to go away, don’t ask for death.”

Prosecutor Bill Douglas said his office made the decision early on to seek the death penalty and he has no plans to offer a plea bargain.

“There will be no negotiations in this case,” he said.

Duncan, 42, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and kidnapping in the bludgeoning deaths of Brenda Groene, her son, 13-year-old Slade Groene, and her boyfriend, Mark McKenzie.

Duncan allegedly kidnapped the two youngest Groene children, Dylan and Shasta. Once the state’s case is through, federal charges are expected for the kidnappings and Dylan’s subsequent slaying.

During Thursday’s hearing, Adams displayed seven large boxes, which he said contain more than 20,000 individual pages of evidence in the case. He showed the judge a foot-high stack of additional pages he said was given to his office in the past month.

The evidence also includes 138 DVDs and CDs and a computer hard drive, Adams said.

He told Gibler his office wouldn’t be ready to go to trial in April and that a conviction in the case could be appealed if defense lawyers weren’t given adequate time to prepare for trial.

Douglas said the victims’ families were opposed to any further delay.

“April is the date all parties agreed to when the court continued the case the first time,” Douglas said, adding that the state had already subpoenaed more than 50 witnesses from across the country.

Gibler granted Adams’ request for a continuance following two hours of private testimony from Shasta Groene’s father, Steve Groene, and his attorney, as well as lawyers from the federal public defenders office.

“All of the witnesses I listened to shared their concern for the victims’ families,” Gibler said. But he said the public defenders were unanimous in the opinion that forcing the trial to go on as scheduled “could in all likelihood result in a retrial.”

Taking that risk “could, in the end, simply prolong the matter,” Gibler said. “The victims could be put through more of an ordeal than they would be by continuing the case.”

He said one of the attorneys told him of capital cases that had been overturned as many as 20 years after conviction.

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