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Lodge rules Duncan was competent, his death sentence appeal was waived

A federal judge has cleared the way for Joseph Duncan’s execution for the 2005 kidnapping, torture and murder of a 9-year-old North Idaho boy, ruling that Duncan was mentally competent when he gave up the right to appeal his death sentence. U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge issued the ruling today, following a six-week competency hearing Lodge presided over in January and February of this year.

There still could be further appeals, but Lodge’s 66-page ruling was a key step toward Duncan’s execution. The Idaho judge ruled that Duncan is “deemed competent to waive his right to appeal in this matter.”

U.S. Attorney for Idaho Wendy Olson said, “The United States is pleased with this careful, considered decision.” Duncan’s murderous attack on a North Idaho family at their home in 2005 left three other family members dead; only 9-year-old Dylan’s then-8-year-old sister, Shasta, survived the ordeal. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Duncan’s Fate Rests In Idaho Court

Child-killer Joseph Duncan is sitting on federal Death Row in Terre Haute, Ind., but his fate still rests in an Idaho courtroom. Eight years after Duncan kidnapped, tortured and murdered a 9-year-old North Idaho boy after a murderous attack on his family, the long process that could lead to Duncan’s execution inched forward this past week, when federal prosecutors filed arguments summing up a six-week mental competency hearing that brought Duncan back to Idaho from Jan. 8 to Feb. 15. “He had the capacity to appreciate his position and to make a rational decision to abandon further litigation,” they wrote/Betsy Russell, Eye on Boise. More here. (SR file photo)

Question: Do you expect that Duncan will be executed someday?

Duncan on federal Death Row, but fate still rests in an Idaho courtroom

Child-killer Joseph Duncan is sitting on federal Death Row in Terre Haute, Ind., but his fate still rests in an Idaho courtroom. Eight years after Duncan kidnapped, tortured and murdered a 9-year-old North Idaho boy after a murderous attack on his family, the long process that could lead to Duncan’s execution inched forward this past week, when federal prosecutors filed arguments summing up a six-week mental competency hearing that brought Duncan back to Idaho from Jan. 8 to Feb. 15. “He had the capacity to appreciate his position and to make a rational decision to abandon further litigation,” they wrote.

Duncan’s already been sentenced to death three times over for the 2005 murder of Dylan Groene. He also received nine life sentences for his bloody attack on the boy’s family at their Wolf Lodge Bay home, which left Dylan’s mother, older brother and mother’s fiancé dead; only Dylan’s then-8-year-old sister, Shasta, survived the ordeal. Duncan pleaded guilty to all charges and waived his right to appeal his death sentence. But his former defense attorneys filed an appeal for him, contending he wasn’t mentally competent when he waived his right to appeal – or when he dismissed them and chose to represent himself in his capital sentencing trial.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ordered a full hearing on that issue in U.S. District Court in Idaho, where U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge had ruled Duncan competent after two extensive psychological evaluations in 2008, but hadn’t held a hearing on the matter in open court. Now he has, and both sides are filing their post-hearing arguments; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Judge Lodge: No closed courtroom for Duncan hearing testimony

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A federal judge has rejected a request that the courtroom be closed for part of a convicted murderer's mental competency hearing. The Idaho Statesman (http://bit.ly/ts2JbV) reported U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge made the ruling Thursday morning in the competency hearing of Joseph Edward Duncan III. An appellate court ordered the hearing to help Lodge determine if Duncan was mentally competent back in 2008, when he gave up his right to appeal his death sentence for the 2005 kidnapping of two northern Idaho children and the murder of one of them. Duncan's attorneys wanted some testimony from Duncan's former lawyers kept secret, saying it could harm the attorney-client relationship they have with Duncan and scare off current and future clients.

Psychologist: Duncan paranoid, but competent

Condemned killer Joseph Duncan scored high on a test measuring paranoia, but was still legally competent to serve as his own attorney when he waived his right to appeal his death sentence, a forensic psychologist testified in federal court in Boise yesterday. Dr. Robert Engle was the lead expert witness for federal prosecutors, who are arguing that Duncan was competent, as ruled by the court at the time. His lawyers say he wasn’t, so his waiver of appeals shouldn’t stand. You can read a full report here from AP reporter Rebecca Boone; the retrospective competency hearing on Duncan continues today in federal court, and is expected to last several weeks.

Court hearing: Duncan targeted Spokane boy before settling on his Idaho victims

Before Joseph Duncan murdered a 9-year-old North Idaho boy in 2005, he set his sights on a Spokane child, posing as a prospective renter and touring a Spokane duplex with the boy’s mother while ogling the child. That news emerged in federal court in Boise this morning, where a judge is trying to determine if Duncan was mentally competent in 2008 when he waived all appeals of his triple death sentence. Among the evidence being presented is hours of interviews between Duncan and two FBI agents, in which he talked about his crimes, his reasons for waiving his appeals and more.

In the interviews, Duncan corrected the FBI agents about some things in their investigation that they’d gotten wrong, including concluding that he’d targeted a Spokane preschool music program as a possible target for his crimes, before settling on the Groene family in North Idaho to attack. Actually, Duncan said, his target in Spokane was a shirtless young boy who was adjusting a for-rent sign at a duplex down an alley from the site; Duncan said he posed as a prospective renter and toured the home with the child’s mother and the youngster. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Duncan case headed back to Idaho courtroom for competency hearing

Condemned killer Joseph Duncan will be back in an Idaho federal courtroom in January,  for a two-week hearing on whether he was mentally competent when he waived his right to appeal his death sentence. U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge is now sorting through issues relating to experts who will testify;  he issued a ruling last week on that. You can read a full report here from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.  Duncan’s defense attorneys say the crux of the case is whether Duncan suffered from religious delusions or merely held unusual religious beliefs, according to court documents.

In 2008, a federal jury sentenced Duncan to death for the kidnapping, torture and murder of 9-year-old Dylan Groene of Coeur d’Alene. He also received nine life sentences for a murderous rampage in 2005, in which he killed three members of Dylan’s family in order to kidnap and molest the family’s two youngest children; only Dylan’s then-8-year-old sister, Shasta, survived. Since then, Duncan also has been convicted of a previous kidnapping and murder involving a 10-year-old California boy, drawing two more life sentences; in that case, after weeks of expert testimony, the court also ruled him mentally competent.

In the Idaho case, however, despite extensive delays for evaluations of Duncan’s mental competency, the judge had never held a competency hearing in open court. That meant all the information on Duncan’s mental competency remained secret. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that without such a hearing there was “reasonable doubt” about Duncan’s competency, and ordered Lodge to hold a “retrospective” competency hearing on Duncan’s mental state in 2008.  If, after the hearing, Lodge rules that Duncan was competent when he waived his right to appeal, the death sentence stands. But if not, Lodge would then have to hold another hearing to determine if Duncan was mentally competent when he waived his right to an attorney in his 2008 sentencing trial and instead represented himself. That could force a replay of the whole sentencing trial.

That sentencing trial included graphic testimony and evidence about the crimes of the serial child molester and murderer. In his closing statement in that trial in 2008, Duncan told the jury, “You people really don’t have any clue yet of the true heinousness of what I’ve done.”

Duncan wants to appeal death penalty

BOISE - Notorious multiple murderer Joseph Duncan was back in a Boise courtroom on Friday morning, as lawyers and a federal judge wrangled over setting a date for a new hearing into whether Duncan was mentally competent when he waived appeals of his triple death sentence for torturing and murdering a 9-year-old North Idaho boy.

Duncan, brought to Boise from federal Death Row in Terre Haute, Ind., his hair close-cropped and graying and wearing a baggy white T-shirt, left all the talking to his attorneys on Friday morning. But in December of 2010, he submitted a hand-written, two-page letter to the court saying he now wants to appeal after all.

Read the rest of Betsy Z. Russell's story here.

Duncan due in court in Boise tomorrow

Condemned child killer Joseph Duncan will be in court in Boise today - two days after the seven-year anniversary of his murderous rampage just east of Coeur d'Alene at Wolf Lodge Bay.

Duncan (pictured in April 2011) was to be transported from federal death row in Terre Haute, Ind., to Boise this week. He's to appear before U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge at the courthouse in Boise Friday morning.

The hearing is to consider a motion to appoint San Francisco attorney Michael N. Burt to represent Duncan during his competency hearing, which has not yet been scheduled. Burt specializes in mental health and competency issues, according to the motion.

Duncan represented himself during his death penalty trial in Boise in 2008, though a team of top anti-death penalty attorneys, including high-profile attorney Judy Clarke, stood by to assist. They filed this motion on his behalf.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last July that Duncan should have been given another competency test before being allowed to to act as his own attorney and waive his right to appeal. This move means he'll undergo another one. If he passes, his death penalty stands. If he doesn't, prosecutors may have to retry him. But he's passed competency tests before.

A jury sentenced Duncan to death for the kidnapping, torture and murder of 9-year-old Dylan Groene.

Duncan was sentenced to life in prison for the May 16, 2005, hammer murders of the boy's mother, Brenda Groene, her boyfriend, Mark McKenzie, and 13-year-old Slade Groene. Dylan's sister, Shasta, then 8-years-old, also was kidnapped by Duncan, but was rescued at a Coeur d'Alene Denny's on July 2, 2005, where Duncan was arrested.

By that time, Dylan already was dead. Duncan, a fugitive convicted sex offender, shot and killed him in front of Shasta at a remote Montana campground after filming himself torturing the boy.

The case shook the Inland Northwest and prompted bumper stickers that read "Kill Duncan."

Read a blog from Duncan's death penalty trial here.

Past coverage:

July 15, 2005: Duncan a charmer, exploiter
  

Duncan still getting competency hearing

Condemned serial killer Joseph E. Duncan is getting another day in court.

Duncan, on death row for the torture slaying of a North Idaho boy he abducted in 2005 after slaughtering most of the youngster’s family, will undergo a hearing to determine whether he was mentally competent when he decided to represent himself and waive his appeal rights.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

July 11: 9th Circuit orders Duncan back into court in Idaho

Full coverage of the Duncan case is available here.

Duncan’s death penalty NOT overturned

BOISE – The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has ordered convicted child-killer Joseph Duncan back into court in Idaho, saying a federal judge should have ordered a competency hearing before allowing Duncan to waive his appeal of his death sentence.

The high court ordered U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge to hold a “retrospective” competency hearing, exploring whether Duncan was competent in November 2008 when he told Lodge he didn’t want to appeal his triple death sentence for the kidnapping, torture and murder of a North Idaho boy. If he’s found competent after the hearing, the death sentence would go forward.

Read the rest of Betsy Z. Russell's story here.

Groene Murders 6 Years Ago Today

"It was six years ago today that the Groene and McKenzie families, and our community, discovered that pure evil exists," posts Kerri Thoreson, More Main Street. "With the murder of Brenda Groene, her middle school-age son, Slade and finance` Mark McKenzie and the kidnapping of her two youngest children, Dylan and Shasta, our collective hearts were broken. The rejoicing for Shasta's return was tempered by the discovery of her brother's body." You can read Kerri's post about the Groene/McKenzie murders & kidnapping here. (More Main Street photo: One year after the murders, this modest Wolf Lodge home belied the horror that was visited about the family who lived there. It's since been torn down.) SR coverage of Groene-McKenzie murders; Joseph Duncan trial here. And:  Wikipedia entry re: murder-kidnapper Joseph Edward Duncan III

Question: Has the Groene/McKenzie murders made you even more cautious re: your children?

Duncan returns to federal death row

A man who tortured and killed two boys in California and Idaho has been returned to death row in federal prison.

Federal prison officials say 48-year-old Joseph Edward Duncan III — who spent more than two years in a Riverside County jail — arrived at a federal prison in Indiana Wednesday.

Duncan was sentenced Tuesday for killing Anthony Martinez, who was kidnapped in 1997 as he played near his Beaumont home. Duncan confessed to the crime after his arrest in Idaho.

He was convicted of kidnapping, raping, torturing and killing a Coeur d'Alene boy, Dylan Groene, in 2005 and beating to death the boy's older brother, mother and her fiance with a hammer.

He will await execution in Terre Haute, where the nation's federal death row inmates are held.

Read past coverage here.

Groene Finds Voice In Social Media

(Steve) Groene wants a national one-strike law for violent sex offenders.  And he is getting support.  In less than a week Groene's Facebook page for his son's Dylan and Slade has tripled in followers.  Groene's boys were two of Duncan's five murder victims.  His daughter Shasta was tortured but survived.  Groene believes a one-strike law may have saved his family.  "Who's to say that if this hadn't been done to my boys that one of them might not have been president some day and been the best president this nation ever had," said Groene/KREM. More here. (SR file photo: Betsy Russell)

Question: Should there be a national one-strike law for violent sexual offenders?