August 2, 2008 in Idaho

Duncan asks for access to his computer files

Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer
 
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Background and the latest updates

Inside

Attorneys representing media outlets file arguments in federal court in favor of keeping court proceedings in the Joseph Duncan case open./B2

Coming Sunday

How Duncan’s self- representation affects the proceedings and likelihood of receiving the death penalty.

BOISE – Killer Joseph Duncan wants access to the computer files – including images, video, audio and documents – from the laptop that was confiscated from him when he was arrested with Shasta Groene, and from another computer confiscated from his North Dakota apartment.

Duncan, who is acting as his own attorney in his capital sentencing trial, filed a handwritten document with the court requesting access to the files, saying he needs them “in preparing my defense.” It was Duncan’s first official filing since he won his bid to represent himself.

But U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge responded in an order Friday that Duncan’s request was too vague, and that he can have access only to discovery documents to which the government has not objected that are in his standby attorneys’ possession and don’t violate jail policies.

Beyond that, Duncan will have to seek more specific permission from the judge, wrote Lodge, who will then consider arguments from both sides as to whether access is appropriate.

Duncan has admitted murdering three Groene family members at their North Idaho home in order to kidnap and molest 9-year-old Dylan Groene and his 8-year-old sister, Shasta, in 2005, and murdering Dylan. His federal sentencing hearing, in which he faces a possible death penalty, resumes Wednesday.

In his request to Lodge, Duncan wrote, “There are incrypted files on both computers that I understand I should not be permitted to have access to, so I understand that. But I need the rest of the contents …  .”

Duncan also filed a second handwritten document in court on Friday, asking that the judge take over questioning of prospective jurors.

“Because of concerns over fairness I request that the court conduct the entire jury selection without government or defense counsel. Thank you,” Duncan wrote.

Meanwhile, his standby attorneys submitted arguments saying they can’t legally question jurors on Duncan’s behalf, while federal prosecutors submitted conflicting arguments saying they could.

Federal rules of criminal procedures say a judge “may examine prospective jurors or may permit the attorneys for the parties to do so.”

If the judge does the questioning, the rules require him to either allow each side to ask additional questions or submit questions to the judge that “the court may ask if it considers them proper.”

Betsy Z. Russell can be reached toll-free at (866) 336-2854 or bzrussell@gmail.com. For more news from Boise, go to www.spokesman- review.com/boise.


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