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Supreme Court denies Duncan appeal in 2005 kidnapping, murder of Dylan Groene

Joseph Edward Duncan III in October 2006 during a court hearing in Coeur d’Alene. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Joseph Edward Duncan III in October 2006 during a court hearing in Coeur d’Alene. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

The U.S. Supreme Court has let stand a ruling that convicted killer Joseph Edward Duncan III was mentally competent when he waived his right to appeal his death sentence for the kidnapping, torture and murder of 9-year-old Dylan Groene in 2005.

The high court Monday denied Duncan’s petition to hear his appeal of a federal judge’s ruling in December 2013, which had been affirmed by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in March 2015.

The three federal death sentences returned by a jury in August 2008 remain in place. No execution date has been set.

Duncan also killed three of Groene’s family members at their home along Interstate 90 east of Coeur d’Alene, and kidnapped his sister Shasta, who later was rescued while eating with Duncan at a Coeur d’Alene restaurant.

Duncan admitted the killings and received nine life sentences in addition to being sentenced to death three times over for what he did to Dylan Groene at a remote campsite in Montana.

At his death penalty sentencing trial in 2008, Duncan dismissed his attorneys and insisted on representing himself. On Nov. 15, 2008, he wrote a letter to U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge saying, “This is to inform the court that if any appeal is initiated on my behalf, it is done contrary to my wishes.”

His standby defense attorneys maintained he wasn’t mentally competent to waive his appeal, and filed an appeal to the 9th Circuit on his behalf. Two years later, in 2010, Duncan said he’d changed his mind about appealing, based on his mother’s wishes; his defense attorneys have pressed his case since then.

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court declined to hear further direct appeal in this case,” U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said Wednesday in a news release. “We will continue to defend this lawful prosecution and Judge Lodge’s deliberate and thorough consideration of the defendant’s competency.”

Olson continued, “Mr. Duncan’s crimes were heinous and tragic for the victims, their family, and the north Idaho communities in which they occurred. We need to bring this to a close.”

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