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BOISE – Videotapes of Shasta and Dylan Groene clowning around at a Montana campsite with their abductor, Joseph Duncan, were played to the jury in Duncan’s federal death sentence trial Friday. Taken out of context, the footage plays like home videos of a family vacation. The video, however, has an ominous undercurrent.
BOISE – One of the big mysteries surrounding Joseph Duncan’s murderous crime spree three years ago was resolved Thursday as the frightened, tearful voice of an 8-year-old girl explained to rescuers why after nearly two months of captivity her abductor had brought her back. “He was going to take me home,” Shasta Groene told Coeur d’Alene police Officer Shane Avriett in an audio recording from July 2, 2005, that was played for jurors deciding whether Duncan should be executed or sentenced to life in prison.
BOISE – Jurors frowned, pursed their lips, some reddened visibly and one gasped out loud as U.S. Attorney Tom Moss detailed the horrific tale of Joseph Duncan’s crimes, intricately planned in advance, culminating in the sexual torture and murder of a 9-year-old boy and an attempt to burn beyond recognition every piece of his body. Federal prosecutors will call 90 witnesses over the coming weeks to show why Duncan should die for his 2005 crimes. Those witnesses, however, won’t include Duncan’s only surviving victim, 11-year-old Shasta Groene. Instead, Duncan and prosecutors filed an agreement with the court late Wednesday waiving Duncan’s right to cross-examine the girl and allowing two videotaped and four audiotaped interviews she gave to law enforcement officers after her rescue to serve as her testimony.
BOISE – Shasta Groene, the only survivor of Joseph Duncan’s murderous rampage in 2005, may not have to testify against her attacker after all. On the eve of today’s opening statements in Duncan’s death penalty sentencing trial in federal court, lawyers on both sides hinted that a deal is in the works.
BOISE – Here’s how high the stakes are in the jury selection under way in the Joseph Duncan case: If one juror objects in any of three different votes, Duncan would be spared the death penalty. That’s what happened in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called “20th hijacker” from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He’s serving a life sentence without possibility of release at the federal supermax prison in Colorado after a juror opposed the death penalty on the final vote in his federal trial.
BOISE – Joseph Duncan, acting as his own attorney, acknowledged Friday that a videotape he made of himself torturing and abusing a 9-year-old North Idaho boy he later murdered is so disturbing that it could leave some viewers emotionally scarred. “This video has a potential of victimizing people,” Duncan told U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge as he sought the removal of a prospective juror who indicated he could have trouble watching the graphic videotape, in part because of a family member’s past abuse. “And anybody who’s sensitive, I’m concerned about that.”
U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge has ruled that Joseph Duncan’s standby attorneys must act on his behalf to question prospective jurors, if he asks them to do so. Duncan’s attorneys, who are designated as standby counsel because he’s elected to represent himself, had argued that by taking on that role, they would violate his right to self-representation. Duncan then asked that the judge take on the questioning of jurors himself. Lodge declined, in an order issued Monday, and cited three U.S. Supreme Court decisions to back up his ruling that it’s an appropriate role for standby lawyers.
BOISE – When Joseph Duncan takes over as his own attorney in his upcoming death penalty sentencing hearings, it’ll change the nature of the proceedings, experts say – and make the confessed multiple murderer much more likely to get the death penalty. “The problem with defendants representing themselves is it puts the spotlight on the defendant, and that’s not always the best defense strategy,” said University of Idaho law professor Richard Seamon.
BOISE – Joseph Duncan won his bid Monday to act as his own attorney in his sentencing hearings, sidelining his expert legal team in what U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge called an “unwise” move. Asked by the judge if he had any reservations, Duncan said, “I’m not a perfect person, and I make mistakes sometimes. ... My only reservation is that I’m a human being.”
BOISE – U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge on Monday ordered prospective jurors in the Joseph Duncan case to check in July 30 for further instructions, suggesting the death penalty proceedings for the convicted killer may be about to resume. It was the fourth delay order issued to the jury pool since jury selection was suspended April 22 and the shortest. Previous delay orders included one for five weeks, followed by two for two weeks apiece. Jurors were called for service in April and May, but that has been extended as the court grappled with Duncan’s request to act as his own attorney.
BOISE – The latest development in the Joseph Duncan sentencing raises a major question: What happens to the case against the confessed killer if psychological evaluations find he's mentally incompetent? Duncan is set to undergo a second mental evaluation, ordered by U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge this week. The review was ordered because of Duncan's request to act as his own attorney; the legal standard for determining whether he's capable of representing himself in court is the same as if his fitness to stand trial were being evaluated.
A decision on whether confessed killer Joseph Duncan should die for what he did to two North Idaho children was pushed back Tuesday when a federal judge ordered a second mental evaluation. Jury selection for the sentencing hearing was suspended last month after Duncan said he wants to act as his own attorney. U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge ordered a mental evaluation by a Boise clinical psychologist to confirm Duncan's competence. But now the judge wants further review. The judge may be contemplating sending Duncan to the federal Bureau of Prisons in Seattle, which does intensive mental evaluations that include a 30- to 45-day monitoring period.
The public has no constitutional right to see the results of a mental evaluation of killer Joseph Duncan, a federal judge in Boise ruled Thursday. Duncan's right to a fair trial outweighs the public's right under the First Amendment, U.S. District Court Judge Edward Lodge ruled before sealing the results.
The public should be able to know results of the psychological exam that will help decide whether admitted murderer Joseph Duncan is competent to act as his own attorney in his sentencing hearing, lawyers for Idaho and Washington news organizations said Friday. U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge should also unseal several documents that discuss why testimony from one of Duncan's victims, Shasta Groene, should be heard in a closed courtroom, a motion filed in federal court in Boise said.
BOISE – More than two dozen prospective jurors were waiting to be questioned, Joseph Duncan was in court, and attorneys and the judge were assembled. But Tuesday's jury selection proceedings were delayed after the defense objected to proceeding without a ruling on whether Duncan will serve as his own attorney in his death penalty hearings – and the government concurred. Pending is a mental evaluation to verify Duncan's competency.
BOISE – Convicted killer Joseph Duncan said Friday that his "ideology" is behind his request to act as his own attorney in his death penalty sentencing hearings for kidnapping, molesting and killing a 9-year-old boy. "I don't have an issue with counsel personally," Duncan told U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge. "I think they are, like you've said many times, good counsel. It's ideology. I don't believe that they can ethically represent my ideology."
BOISE – Joseph Duncan wants to act as his own attorney in his death penalty hearings, his lawyers told the court Wednesday. "He has requested that we recognize his desire to exercise his constitutional right to represent himself," attorney Mark Larranaga told the court, expressing concern about continuing with jury selection until the issue is resolved.
The public should be able to "observe all matters" considered by a U.S. District Court jury that will decide if confessed killer Joseph Duncan should face the federal death penalty, 16 media and open-government organizations argued in a legal brief filed Tuesday. The organizations, including The Spokesman-Review and three Spokane television stations, urged U.S. District Court Judge Edward Lodge to keep his Boise courtroom open if kidnap victim Shasta Groene is called to testify or if the jury is shown a graphic videotape Duncan made as he tortured and killed her brother.
BOISE – The largest jury pool ever summoned to federal court in Idaho gathered at a Boise convention center Monday to face a thin, shaggy-haired killer whose fate rests in their hands.
BOISE – Three hundred fifty people will gather in Boise's convention center on Monday to start an extraordinary process: deciding whether Joseph Duncan should die for what he did to two North Idaho children. Available legal records suggest no one's received the death penalty in federal court for a crime committed in Idaho since the 1920s. But Duncan's case is rare in its heinousness and shock value. The convicted killer and child molester attacked a North Idaho family at their home in 2005, killed three family members in order to kidnap two young children, molested both youngsters and held them captive for weeks. Only one child, then-8-year-old Shasta Groene, survived.