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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

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."

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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