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Duncan murder trial put off again


He’s his own counsel in ‘97 slaying of boy, 10

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – A trial still appears to be at least a year away for a convicted killer charged with the 1997 slaying of a 10-year-old Beaumont, Calif., boy.

During a hearing last week, a judge postponed a trial date this month for Joseph Edward Duncan III for up to a year.

Duncan, 47, is charged with abducting Anthony Martinez from his Beaumont home, killing the boy and leaving his body in a ravine outside Joshua Tree National Park near Indio, Calif.

Duncan already faces three federal death sentences for the 2005 kidnapping, torture, sexual assault and murder of Dylan Groene, 9, who lived east of Coeur d’Alene. 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, and for the abduction and abuse of Shasta Groene, 8. Duncan kept Shasta and Dylan captive in a remote Montana cabin before killing Dylan. Shasta survived.

In court last week, Duncan, who is representing himself, told the court he would not be ready to go to trial by November, if at all. He said he still needed thousands of pages of evidence from the district attorney’s office that have not been turned over.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge David Downing said he wanted the case to go to trial no later than September 2011. He ordered prosecutors to have the evidence given to Duncan by January or February.

Prosecutors are redacting police reports and evidence of personal information before it can be turned over, said Deputy District Attorney Otis Sterling.

“He’s just talking,” Sterling said. “I’m not really concerned and I’m not seeing him impose any delay tactics. I want to get this case going and I know the judge wants to get this case going. We’re moving relatively good on a death penalty case.”

Duncan was extradited to Riverside County in January 2009 to be tried for Martinez’s death after he was convicted of the North Idaho murders.

When Duncan first arrived at the Indio jail, Downing said he had hoped for the case to go to trial by January 2010. The case was delayed last summer by a competency trial requested by court-appointed public defenders to determine if Duncan was fit for trial and could act as his own attorney.

The court appointed a legally required private investigator to the case who earns $75 per hour. Downing ruled last week that any requests for funds must be submitted to a three-judge panel for approval. The court ordered a $2,800 payment for a laptop Duncan said he needed to prepare documents in the case.

Sterling noted that with Duncan acting as his own attorney, communication in the case is more difficult. For example, Sterling said he could not just pick up the phone and call him. Instead, he has to visit Duncan in jail. He said the district attorney’s office has to take measures to make sure the case is fair for Duncan.

Still, “I think September 2011 is doable,” Sterling said.

(Southern California) City News Service reporter Jessica E. Davis contributed to this report.

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