Duncan jury pool on week’s notice
Order suggests death penalty phase to resume soon
BOISE – U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge on Monday ordered prospective jurors in the Joseph Duncan case to check in July 30 for further instructions, suggesting the death penalty proceedings for the convicted killer may be about to resume.
It was the fourth delay order issued to the jury pool since jury selection was suspended April 22 and the shortest. Previous delay orders included one for five weeks, followed by two for two weeks apiece. Jurors were called for service in April and May, but that has been extended as the court grappled with Duncan’s request to act as his own attorney.
Duncan has pleaded guilty to all charges in a 10-count federal indictment for kidnapping two young North Idaho children from their home after killing three family members, molesting the children and murdering one, 9-year-old Dylan Groene.
A jury must decide whether Duncan should die or go to prison for life, without possibility of release.
When the convicted killer – who’s pleaded guilty in state court to murdering the youngsters’ mother, older brother and mother’s fiancé in order to kidnap the two children – said he wanted to act as his own attorney, Lodge ordered a mental evaluation to confirm that Duncan was competent to waive his constitutional right to an attorney.
After the first evaluation was completed, the court ordered a second evaluation. In addition, defense lawyers filed a motion to declare Duncan incompetent – which would mean not only that he couldn’t act as his own lawyer, but that he couldn’t undergo any court proceedings until he was again declared mentally competent. The judge is expected to rule soon on that issue.
The 300-plus prospective jurors remain prohibited from reading, hearing or watching news reports about the case.
Betsy Z. Russell can be reached toll-free at (866) 336-2854 or email@example.com.