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Joseph Duncan

Summary

Joseph Edward Duncan III is the murderer and kidnapper who attacked a Wolf Lodge Bay family in May 2005.

Kootenai County deputies discovered three dead on May 16, 2005. Brenda Groene, 40; her fiance Mark McKenzie, 37; and her son, Slade Groene, 13, were bludgeoned to death. An Amber Alert was issued the next day for Brenda Groene’s two youngest children, 9-year-old Dylan Groene and 8-year-old Shasta Groene.

The murders and children’s disappearance launched the biggest investigative effort in Kootenai County’s history, at one point involving more than 100 FBI personnel and more than 80 investigators from several other agencies.

Shortly before 2 a.m. on July 2, Shasta was recognized by workers and patrons at the Denny’s in Coeur d’Alene, and her kidnapper, Duncan, was arrested without incident.

Duncan, 42 at the time, was a federal fugitive and a Tacoma native who had spent much of his adult life in Washington state prisons for sex crimes against children. He was on the run from a child molestation charge in Minnesota when he drove past the Groene home on Interstate 90 east of Coeur d’Alene and spotted Shasta and Dylan playing outside.

Over the July 4 weekend, investigators found Dylan Groene’s remains at a campsite near St. Regis, Mont.

On Oct. 16, 2005, Duncan pleaded guilty to three counts of kidnapping and three counts of murder in the deaths of Brenda Groene, Mark McKenzie and Slade Groene. He was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences for the kidnappings. The sentences for the murders were undecided, pending federal prosecution.

More than two years later, after numerous legal delays and psychiatric evaluations, Duncan acted as his own lawyer as he pleaded guilty to 10 federal counts, including the kidnapping of the two children and Dylan’s murder, on Dec. 3, 2007.

On Aug. 27, 2008, a federal jury sentenced Duncan to death. The decision ended the state’s earlier case, with a judge imposing three more life sentences for those murders. Later, Duncan was given three more life sentences, for a total of nine, for his federal crimes.

Duncan pleaded guilty in the death of Anthony Martinez, a 10-year-old California boy, adding his 10th life sentence on March 15, 2011. Duncan has also been linked to the 1996 slayings of two young half-sisters in Seattle.

Latest updates in this topic

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 back in Idaho court, Legislature off and running for session…

Condemned multiple murderer Joseph Duncan will be back in an Idaho federal courtroom today, for a retrospective competency hearing, to determine if he was mentally competent in November of 2008 when he waived his appeals. If he’s ruled competent, Duncan will go back to federal Death Row in Terre Haute, Ind., to await execution. If not, more court proceedings would ensue – possibly including a replay of his whole death penalty sentencing trial. You can read my full story here from today’s Spokesman-Review.

Meanwhile, the Idaho Legislature is off and running for its session. JFAC is meeting this morning and will begin sorting through the governor’s proposed budget for next year. House and Senate Democrats will give their response to yesterday’s State of the State message at 10 a.m., and this afternoon at 4, the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee will meet in the Capitol Auditorium and release a report on workforce issues affecting public school teachers in Idaho.

Duncan case goes back to the courtroom

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. More here. Betsy Russell, EOB

I know this a legal matter, but honestly do you really care whether Duncan suffered from relgious delusions or merely held unusual religious beliefs?

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.”

KREM: Shasta Groene Breaks Silence

Shasta Groene is no longer the little girl that captured the hearts of the Inland Northwest by surviving a terrifying ordeal in which her mother, her mother's boyfriend and two brothers were murdered by Joseph Duncan. She's now a 16-year-old high schooler. KREM2 provides a story and exclusive interview with Shasta today. She tells KREM: “A lot of people, when they hear my name, they kinda get shocked that I've grown up so much. But I use my name and what I've been through to help people.”And: “I mean it's something that is in the back of my mind every day. I've thought about it every day, but it's something that helps me stay strong every day …because not a lot of people have survived what I have been through.” You can see the video and what Shasta looks like today by clicking this KREM2 link.

Thoughts?

Groene’s Dad Sues Fund Manager

A woman who administered a bank account for donations given to benefit two North Idaho children kidnapped seven years ago is being sued by their father, who says she mismanaged the funds. The Coeur d’Alene Press reports Steven Groene, shown in AP file photo, filed the lawsuit in 1st District Court late last week against Brandy Hoagland. Hoagland is Shasta and Dylan Groene’s aunt and the administrator of a fund created after the children were kidnapped by Joseph Edward Duncan III. Duncan eventually killed Dylan and returned to Coeur d’Alene, where Shasta was rescued. In the lawsuit, Groene contends Hoagland has refused to account for the money donated by the public. Groene also contends she failed to use roughly $48,000 in the best interests of the children/Associated Press. More here.

Question: Am I the only one saddened by this story?

Duncan competency hearing set for Jan. 8

A court hearing on whether condemned murderer Joseph Duncan was mentally competent when he waived his right to appeal his death sentence has been set for Jan. 8, 2013. “There will be no extension … of the Jan. 8 date,” U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge said this morning as he set the hearing. Lodge appointed Michael Burt, a death penalty expert from San Francisco with expertise in mental health issues, as Duncan's attorney for the hearing.

The judge had hoped to set the hearing earlier, first looking at July and then October, but Burt isn't available until December. Lodge said he set the January timing “to avoid any holiday issues with potential witnesses.”

In 2008, a federal jury sentenced Duncan to death for the 2005 kidnap, torture and murder of a 9-year-old North Idaho boy; he also received nine life sentences for a murderous attack on the child's family that left three other people dead. After Duncan declined to appeal his death sentence and represented himself in court at his Idaho sentencing trial in 2008, his standby attorneys filed an appeal for him against his will. Duncan now says he's changed his mind and wants to appeal the sentence; he pleaded guilty to all the charges.

However, in court filings, federal prosecutors noted, “Whether the defendant now wishes to appeal, and whether he was incompetent at the time he waived his right to appeal, are separate issues. Only the second issue is before the Court.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
  

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 changes mind, says he now wants to appeal his death sentence

Notorious multiple murderer Joseph Duncan was back in a Boise courtroom this 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.

Duncan in the past has strongly opposed contentions that he wasn't mentally competent to make that decision in 2008. He underwent two lengthy mental evaluations before U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge ruled him competent and allowed him to dismiss his lawyers in that sentencing trial and represent himself; he already had  pleaded guilty to all charges. The lawyers filed an appeal to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals against Duncan's wishes, arguing he was mentally incompetent.

“I have been very stubborn about not appealing my death sentence,” the condemned killer wrote. “My belief is that if I appeal, then I am acknowledging the system's authority to commit murder.” But he wrote that more recently, his younger brother had died, making Duncan his mother's only surviving son. “It would be utterly cruel, and indeed, inhuman, for me not to consider my mother's love when deciding what to do in regard to my own life,” Duncan wrote. “So I hereby inform you, and any others concerned, that I withdraw my waiver of appeal, and consent fully to all efforts and advice given by my attorneys to appeal.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

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.

Expert: Secrecy contributed to 9th Circuit ruling

When Joseph Duncan received three death sentences and nine life terms in federal court in Idaho for his murderous 2005 attack on the Groene family in North Idaho, U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge ordered two extensive mental evaluations that delayed Duncan's death penalty sentencing trial for months. But he never held a hearing on the issue in open court; as a result, all of Duncan's mental evaluations remained secret.

James Cohen, a law professor at Fordham University and an expert on the death penalty and mental competency, said, “There's no reason for the judge in Idaho to keep all this stuff secret - there's just no reason at all.” Said Cohen, “The only justification would be to protect the privacy of the defendant.” But, he said, “He lost that when he was indicted for this particular crime.”

Secrecy was extensive in the sentencing trial, with numerous documents sealed from public view, leading to several legal challenges by the media. Much of the secrecy came because the case involved a surviving child victim, but it also covered all issues of Duncan's mental competency. Cohen said there are “at least two benefits” to a public competency hearing. The first, he said, is that psychologists, psychiatrists or other experts “might be able to learn something from his mental illness that could head off others. And two, it's very important that our system work right - and we don't punish people that are mentally ill to that extreme.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Duncan Competency Hearing Ordered

Oopsy: AP had reported that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had thrown out the death penalty against Joseph Duncan. Although that eventually could happen, it's more nuanced than that.

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 appeals court today ordered U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge to hold a competency hearing to determine if Duncan was competent to waive his right to appeal his death sentence. If the answer is yes, then the death sentence will go forward. If not, the federal court in Idaho would have to “proceed to determine whether Defendant competently waived his right to counsel before the penalty phase hearing.” If it then finds that he wasn’t competent to do that, it would have to “vacate Defendant’s sentence and convene a new penalty phase hearing with Defendant properly represented.” That would mean a rerun of Duncan’s entire sentencing trial in federal court in Boise for his deadly attack on the Groene family of North Idaho/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. (And: Betsy Russell's link to full ruling)

Question: Does this ruling diminish your faith in this country's judicial sentence?

Olson: Duncan’s death sentence still in place for now

U.S. Attorney for Idaho Wendy Olson is making the emphatic point that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling today does NOT overturn Joseph Duncan's death sentence; instead, it reverses U.S. District Judge Lodge's order waiving Duncan's right to appeal, ordering Lodge to hold a retrospective competency hearing before deciding on that issue. Though it's a development that could potentially lead to a rerun of Duncan's entire sentencing trial in Idaho, for now, Duncan's death sentence remains in effect - and he remains on Death Row at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind.

What the 9th Circuit has done is order Duncan back into court in Idaho for the competency hearing. It's not clear yet how soon that would occur; either side has the option of appealing the 9th Circuit's ruling. Olson said her office has 14 days to decide on that. “We're not going to discuss how we're going to proceed forward,” she said.
“Our position throughout the proceedings was that Duncan was competent. That's the position we asserted.”

Judge Lodge ordered a full competency evaluation of Duncan; it delayed the sentencing trial for months. But he didn't order a hearing on the matter in court. “There was no actual hearing in court where witnesses were called and cross-examination was conducted,” Olson said. “The Court of Appeals is saying, as a procedural matter, the district court should have done that.”