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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Could Duncan case become a test for death penalty?

Joseph Duncan may be the most-hated man in Idaho. The confessed murderer is awaiting a federal trial here for allegedly kidnapping then-8-year-old Shasta Groene and her 9-year-old brother, Dylan, and torturing and murdering Dylan after holding the children captive and molesting them for weeks. Duncan already has pleaded guilty to killing the children’s mother, her fiancé, and the children’s 13-year-old brother in a bloody attack at the family’s Wolf Lodge Bay home near Coeur d’Alene. Duncan faces the death penalty. So could this horrific case, this case that’s spawned “Kill Duncan” bumper stickers on North Idaho cars, become a test case for the death penalty? That’s been raised in motions filed in the case, including one that seeks to have the federal death penalty declared unconstitutional.

Among the arguments: There’ve only been three executions under the federal death penalty in the last 40 years, yet many other equally horrific crimes drew lesser penalties, and there’s no discernible explanation for why. Attorney Mark Larranaga argues in court papers that that shows the law is “arbitrary” and “fundamentally unfair,” and should be declared unconstitutional. Read my full story here in today’s Spokesman-Review.

Eye On Boise

News, happenings and more from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.