Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Day 52° Clear
News >  Spokane

Amid evil, jury shines moral light

As I write this Wednesday the newsroom is abuzz with the latest on a two-legged monster.

A federal jury in Boise just ruled that Joseph Duncan must die for his repugnant and rapacious acts against humanity.

And I can’t stop thinking about the brave jurors who made this decision. Day after day they were captives to a recounting of Duncan’s filth and depravity, some of the most horrific crimes I have encountered in nearly 35 years of journalism.

My heart aches for them. I can’t admire them enough.

But I’ll be honest with you. I stopped reading the Duncan court stories days ago.

I couldn’t stomach the words in black and white.

So how repellant must it have been in living color?

How often did these jurors wish in their hearts to be somewhere else?

To be anywhere but in a room breathing the same air as Joseph Duncan.

I’ve heard all the arguments about the death penalty. How the death penalty is flawed, how years will pass before an execution is carried out.

All true.

But Duncan is as bad as bad gets. He’s an admitted child killer, a mass murderer, a sex predator, a kidnapper, a torturer who documented his vile acts on video.

Sentencing this guy to anything less than death would insult the memories of Dylan Groene, the 9-year-old Coeur d’Alene boy he abducted, molested and eventually murdered; Dylan’s sister, Shasta, who was kidnapped and abused with Dylan; and the North Idaho family Duncan wiped out in a blood-splattered frenzy.

It’s a fool’s game trying to fathom what motivates a Joseph Duncan.

He’s different from the rest of us. There is no remorse in his world. Empathy is an alien language.

He reminds me of the lesson I learned while baby-sitting my best friend’s pet alligator when I was 17.

Ralph, it was named.

My duties while my friend was vacationing with his family were simple: Adjust the heat lamp that kept the 18-inch gator warm. Drop in some pork kidneys for food.

Ralph, however, was unimpressed by my charity. Try as I might, the gator would just stare at me with watchful, expressionless eyes.

But I was an optimist back then. I believed in my heart that I could win Ralph over with kindness.

So one day I decided to make a show of friendship. Talking to Ralph in soothing tones, I slowly reached in my hand in give the gator a kindly pat on the head.


Ralph was a strike of green leathery lightning, barely missing my fingers with his prehistoric teeth.

That’s when it hit me.

Some creatures are beyond the reach of affection. Some creatures are cold-blooded by nature.

“You people really don’t have any clue yet of the true heinousness of what I’ve done … ,” Duncan, who represented himself, told the jury in his closing statement.

“My intention was to kidnap and rape and kill until I was killed, preferring death, easily, over capture.”

My God.

Comparing this fiend to an alligator is an insult to alligators everywhere.

Alligators act out of instinct. Duncan is driven by insatiable and evil desires.

The jury made the right and moral decision.

One day, hopefully sooner than later, someone will slip a needle into one of Duncan’s veins.

And the world will be better without him.

Doug Clark can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.