November 7, 2007 in Idaho

Duncan lawyers challenge jury rules

Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer
 
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BOISE – Attorneys for convicted murderer Joseph Duncan have filed papers in court seeking to have his federal indictment for kidnapping, killing and child molesting thrown out because they contend Idaho’s grand juror selection rules are unconstitutional.

A federal grand jury indicted Duncan on 10 counts last January. His federal trial is scheduled to start in January.

He faces a possible death penalty if convicted of kidnapping and molesting Dylan and Shasta Groene and torturing and killing 9-year-old Dylan. He’s already been convicted in state court of murdering the children’s brother and mother and their mother’s fiancé in a bloody attack at the family’s home near Coeur d’Alene in 2005.

In court filings this week, Duncan’s attorneys contend that juror selection rules of the Idaho District of the federal court improperly disqualify jurors who haven’t resided in the district for one year; aren’t able to read, write and understand the English language; are incapable of jury duty due to “mental or physical infirmity;” or have a felony charge pending against them.

Those rules, the attorneys argued, are “so broad that many otherwise qualified jurors who are blind, physically or hearing impaired, or who simply have some difficulty with the English language may be disqualified, in violation of the Constitution and the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

They also argued that excluding jurors who face pending charges violates the presumption of innocence.

Federal prosecutors, who along with the defense lawyers are under a gag order that prevents them from discussing the case, haven’t yet responded to the defense attorneys’ filing.

Duncan’s defense this week also filed motions requesting suppression of incriminating statements Duncan made after his arrest, while talking to a Kootenai County jail chaplain and to two FBI agents seeking information about other crimes against children.

In August 2005, the 1st District Court in Kootenai County held a hearing on whether those and other of Duncan’s incriminating statements after his arrest should be suppressed, because of defense contentions that they came after Duncan had requested a lawyer. The court rejected the motion to suppress the statements, but ruled them inadmissible in the initial guilt phase of his trial there.

Duncan ended up pleading guilty rather than going to trial in state court, but he’s not yet been sentenced for his three murder convictions in Kootenai County. If he doesn’t get the death penalty in federal court, his Kootenai County jury could be reconvened to consider the death penalty there.


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