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A name that should only be used in an obit

One of the regrettable realities about life in the Information Age is how quickly the outrage of the moment becomes a forgotten relic of the past.

Maybe we’re so bombarded by the controversies and “nontroversies” of the here-and-now that the space in our brains simply gets too filled up to keep track of anything that happened much past last week’s calamity.

I have no proof for this. It’s just a theory I began forming Monday morning when – still in the grog of sleep – I heard a radio news announcer speak the name of one of the planet’s worst bags of scum.

Joseph Duncan.

Hearing it jarred me instantly awake.

I know some of you reading this are feeling what I felt at first, that strange inner-cranial itch that comes with having your memory tickled.

Joseph Duncan?

Oh, yeah. Isn’t he the …

Let me help.

Duncan is the boogeyman.

He’s that murderous monster hiding under the bed that every kid fears.

He’s Freddy Krueger and Jason and all the other slasher flick nightmares with one horrifying exception:

Joseph Duncan is real.

And if that isn’t enough, Duncan is also the poster boy for the sad fact that our system of justice is broken.

If it weren’t, Duncan would have never shown up in Wolf Lodge Bay, where he bludgeoned to death three members of a family and abducted two children in May of 2005.

The Tacoma native was a dangerous pedophile who had logged most of life behind bars.

The system just kept letting him go.

When he arrived here, he was running from charges of child molestation issued out of Minnesota.

One thing about predators like Duncan, they are always on the hunt.

Just east of Coeur d’Alene, Duncan spied two beautiful children at play: Dylan Groene, 9, and his 8-year-old sister, Shasta.

Duncan wanted them. Had to have them.

Wouldn’t be denied.

And so this thing in human form snatched them both.

But only after unleashing his deadly swinging rage on Brenda, Dylan’s and Shasta’s mom; her fiancé, Mark McKenzie; and Slade, her 13-year-old boy.

Another thing about predators like Duncan is that they almost always get caught.

And so he was, in the wee hours of July 2, 2005, in a Coeur d’Alene Denny’s restaurant.

Shasta was with him, which was a blessing.

Dylan’s abused, lifeless remains would be found two days later at the campsite where Duncan murdered and then discarded them like so much trash.

And back into the system went Joseph Duncan.

Eventually he would be convicted of five separate murders in three separate states.

And time dragged on. And his story was pushed back, back into the fuzzy recesses of our minds while noted lawyerly men and women with the highest ideals scrambled and schemed to save the death row inmate’s worthless hide.

I won’t bore you with details. But Duncan is back in Boise’s Ada County Jail for a hearing.

The defense contends the poor man wasn’t right in the head when he did perhaps the only good thing he’s ever done in his life.

Namely waive his right to appeal the death sentences given him in 2008.

These noted lawyerly, etc., etc. have already won a victory in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. That auspicious body of robed numbskulls ruled last spring that Duncan should have had a competency hearing even though court experts had already ruled Duncan competent on several previous occasions.

Many good people are against the death penalty for a whole lot of reasons. But there aren’t any ambiguities about this case. No facts in dispute. No DNA to be checked.

We all know what this jackal did.

If ever there was a fitting example of someone who deserves to be given a state-sanctioned dirt nap, it is this guy.

I know I’m dreaming again, but the next time I hear a newsman utter the name Joseph Duncan, let it be after an executioner has slipped the needle into one of his veins.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at
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