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Jury OKs Duncan trial

Sat., Aug. 29, 2009, midnight

Conviction for killing boy in 1997 could yield another death penalty

INDIO, CALIF. – An Indio jury has found Joseph Edward Duncan III competent to stand trial in the 1997 kidnapping and killing of a 10-year-old boy.

The jury deliberated for less than three hours before making its decision Friday.

Duncan can now stand trial on death penalty charges that he kidnapped, molested and tortured Anthony Martinez after abducting the boy from behind his Beaumont, Calif., home April 4, 1997.

During the trial, four psychologists and psychiatrists called by the defense described Duncan as psychotic and delusional and unable to assist his attorneys.

Two psychologists called by the prosecution said Duncan was not mentally ill and was competent to stand trial.

“Now we can focus on the present case at hand,” Deputy District Attorney Otis Sterling said outside the courtroom. During the trial, a Kootenai County detective detailed Duncan’s calculated measures to plot to kill a family in Idaho in 2005. The prosecution said that showed rational thought and awareness of his actions.

Duncan has already been ordered to three federal death sentences for the kidnapping, torture, sexual assault and murder of Dylan Groene, 9, in 2005. He has nine life terms for the murders of Brenda Groene, Mark McKenzie and Groene’s 13-year-old son, Slade, in their Wolf Lodge Bay home east of Coeur d’Alene, and for the abduction and abuse of Shasta Groene, 8. Duncan kept Shasta and Dylan captive in a remote Montana cabin before killing the boy.

He was arrested in 2005. The girl survived.

Duncan’s court-appointed public defender Richard Verlato said he will file a motion for a new trial.

“I know he’s unable to assist his attorneys. It was just a question of if the jury would see it in this case,” Verlato said.

During the proceedings, Duncan refused to speak to his attorneys or sign medical and legal waivers, Verlato said. Duncan has requested to represent himself at trial, but whether he’ll be allowed to do so has not been determined by the court.

Duncan has confessed to all of his crimes, including Anthony Martinez’s murder. He has told experts he wants to plead guilty. He has taken responsibility for his crimes, but not shown remorse and said he wouldn’t do anything in his life differently, according to testimony.

Two hours before the verdict was read, Duncan said in a jailhouse interview that his story was not news and that his beliefs and statements have been misinterpreted in court and in the media.

“This story’s already been told by people far more articulate than me,” Duncan said Friday. “It’s not a new story, it’s an old story, it’s an ancient story that’s been told hundreds of times.”

Clean-shaven and smiling while wearing an orange jail-uniform in the Indio Jail, Duncan answered a jail telephone. He spoke for about 10 minutes and shook his head when asked if he wanted to tell his story.

“If people want answers, they can’t be put into words,” Duncan said. “They have to look inside themselves, because that’s where the true answers are. That’s where I’ve found answers.”



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