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Eye On Boise

U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson to 9th Circuit: Duncan made it clear he didn’t want to appeal death sentence

Convicted multiple murderer Joseph Duncan made it very clear he didn’t want to appeal his triple death sentence, U.S. Attorney for Idaho Wendy Olson told the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today. “I think the record is very clear that in November of 2008, this defendant did not wish to appeal,” Olson argued to a three-judge panel chaired by Judge Susan Graber. And she noted that following an extensive competency hearing that the 9th Circuit ordered U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge to hold in 2013, Duncan was ruled mentally competent to make that decision.

“Competent defendants can waive their right to appeal, even in a capital case,” Olson said. Attorneys for Duncan are challenging the competency finding, and arguing that they should be able to proceed with an appeal they filed for the man who killed three members of the Groene family at their North Idaho home in 2005 before kidnapping the family’s two youngest children, one of whom he later also killed. Only the youngest daughter, then 8, survived.

Graber read from a letter Duncan submitted to the court on Nov. 15, 2008: “This is to inform the court that if any appeal is initiated on my behalf, it is done contrary to my wishes.” But defense attorney Joseph Schlesinger told the court Duncan wrote a letter two years later  saying he did want to appeal, and all his statements about the issue were “very peculiar,” including “long colloquies where Mr. Duncan is saying, ‘I want the system to do what it wants to do.’ … We don’t have someone who wants to die, which makes this different from practically every waiver case this court has had in a death case.” You can read my full story here at

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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