BOISE – Jurors who imposed the death penalty on Joseph Duncan are being offered help coping with the horrific things they saw and heard during the killer’s sentencing trial.
The U.S. District Court in Boise confirmed Thursday that counseling is available to the jurors who viewed grisly evidence, including human remains, a wire noose and videos of Duncan torturing the boy he later killed, 9-year-old Dylan Groene.
Meanwhile, officials in Riverside County, Calif., braced for a likely two-month wait before they can try Duncan on capital charges for another child’s killing,
And a woman in Tacoma who was involved with Duncan’s father – they have a son together – and knew him as a troubled teen said the jury made the right call.
“One of my sons asked, ‘What if it was me that had done that?’ and I said, ‘Honey, if you had done that, I would be the one to push the trigger,’ ” said Pat Rybiski, 61, the only relative of Duncan’s who would speak to The Spokesman-Review. “I don’t care how abused or mistreated, there’s no excuse for what that man’s done.
“The Lord is the one that gets vengeance, the eye for the eye, not we people,” she said. “He guided the jury to that decision.”
Rybiski dated Duncan’s father for three years around 1980. Their son, 27, is Duncan’s half-brother.
She said an investigator for Duncan’s lawyers repeatedly asked her to testify on his behalf. Rybiski refused, but she monitored the trial from afar.
“I was really kind of sick to my stomach thinking that the man had been in my house, close to all three of my children,” she said.
Duncan, then 17, was already in serious trouble when Rybiski met him. He was committed to a state mental hospital for an evaluation pending his trial for raping a 14-year-old Pierce County boy at gunpoint.
“At the time, I thought, ‘He’s a game-player, he tells you what you want to hear. And smart,’ ” she said.
Later, she said, Duncan visited the family, trying to get to know his half-brother. As the two boys talked in her living room, Rybiski said, Duncan said something that startled her.
“He said, ‘People are going to tell you I am a very black soul, and you need to believe that,’ ” she said. “I remember that very clearly.”
Rybiski said she feels sorry for Duncan’s relatives, none of whom attended his sentencing trial. His brother Bruce died of a sudden heart problem two years ago. His mother lives in Tacoma; she declined comment. His father lived in Las Vegas recently, but has apparently moved.
“It would be hard for a mom and a dad to know that your kid was a demented … I don’t know the word. Psychopath,” Rybiski said.
Duncan’s sentencing Wednesday marked the first death sentence handed down in Idaho’s federal district court.
“You would like to think that a case like this only comes around every 100 years or so – we certainly hope so,” said University of Idaho law professor Rich Seamon.
Seamon said the proceeding “was really remarkably smooth, considering his decision to represent himself and the wrangling I take it he had with his lawyers. It sounds like it was a pretty stormy relationship. … We do give people that choice.”
Duncan could appeal his death sentence.
Seamon said, “I hope that all the affected people feel reasonably vindicated and satisfied with the process, and I hope that whatever further process there is doesn’t drag on. … There’s this constitutional provision that talks about a speedy trial, and of course it’s mostly for the defendant’s benefit, but I think it’s also for the public’s benefit as well.”
A speedy trial, Seamon said, helps the parties involved heal and move on.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said Thursday that Duncan likely will remain in federal custody in Boise until after he’s sentenced Oct. 15 on the remaining counts to which he’s pleaded guilty.
He received the death sentence on three counts, but also pleaded guilty to seven non-capital crimes for kidnapping and molesting Dylan and his 8-year-old sister, Shasta, in 2005. “We still have primary jurisdiction over him,” Olson said.
Authorities in King County, Wash., haven’t filed charges against Duncan in the murders of two girls there in 1996, despite his confession to the FBI. Extensive evidence about the killings was presented in the federal case.
“That’s a decision that the prosecutors and King County ultimately will have to make,” Olson said. “It’s a vastly different process to go through, to prove a full-blown murder beyond a reasonable doubt, than to introduce it in the way that we could.”
The case was described in the Boise proceedings, along with the Riverside County murder, to show that Duncan had exhibited a pattern of violence and future dangerousness that helped make the death penalty appropriate. However, unlike the California case, no physical evidence was presented that directly tied Duncan to the Washington killings.
Ingrid Wyatt, spokeswoman for the Riverside County district attorney’s office, said California won’t be able to seek Duncan’s extradition until the judge has certified the death penalty, which can take 60 to 70 days, and there’s a formal disposition of the federal and state charges against Duncan in Idaho.
“The sooner the better, obviously, but we’re certainly one step closer to having our case heard here in Riverside County,” Wyatt said.
Duncan told the FBI he abducted and murdered 10-year-old Anthony Martinez there in 1997; a fingerprint found at the homicide scene matched his.
“We’re certainly pleased with the jury’s decision there on the federal case,” Wyatt said. “In each jurisdiction, they’re terrible cases, and so we’re just awaiting our turn here in Riverside County to seek justice for the Martinez family. It’s been a long time coming here in Riverside County.”