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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Duncan juror phase begins

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.

Judge rules against Duncan

Jurors can consider incriminating statements convicted murderer Joseph Duncan made to FBI agents as they decide whether he should be executed for his crimes, a federal judge has ruled. U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge on Thursday ruled that Duncan understood and waived his rights when he spoke to FBI agents at the Kootenai County Jail in July 2005 about crimes he committed against Dylan and Shasta Groene, as well as the murders of missing children in the Seattle area and Southern California.

Duncan lawyers seek sentence delay

BOISE – Attorneys for convicted murderer Joseph Edward Duncan III are asking a federal judge to postpone his sentencing hearing on 10 federal charges until September, and to prevent the only surviving victim from testifying about the effect the deaths of her mother, older brother and family friend had on her. The flurry of defense motions, filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday and Wednesday, also include a request to take the death penalty off the table for one of the charges against Duncan.

Duncan evidence won’t be suppressed

BOISE – A federal judge has rejected defense attorneys' motions to suppress evidence seized from the vehicle Joseph Duncan was driving when he was found with young Shasta Groene, the only survivor of Duncan's bloody attack on her family.

Shasta told police of Duncan’s claims

BOISE – Shasta Groene told authorities that Joseph Duncan, during the weeks he held her captive at a remote Montana campsite, described killing at least three other children – a tip that prompted authorities to investigate Duncan as a possible serial killer. In federal court hearings Tuesday and Wednesday, documents submitted into evidence and testimony from law enforcement witnesses showed that the 8-year-old girl, just hours after her rescue from Duncan on July 2, 2005, told police about Duncan's possible prior crimes.

Shooting details revealed at Duncan hearing

BOISE – The night she was rescued from killer Joseph Duncan, young Shasta Groene gave such a vivid description of Duncan's killing of her brother, Dylan, that it left little doubt that 9-year-old Dylan was dead. Nevertheless, authorities anxiously hunted for Dylan out of fear he might still be alive. Kootenai County Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Brad Maskell said Duncan earlier had left both children chained to a tree in the forest and "our concern was that that situation still existed."

Shasta won’t need to testify

BOISE – Shasta Groene won't have to testify in federal court against killer Joseph Duncan under an agreement reached by both sides in the case. "The parties will stipulate that S.G. will not be called as a witness at the capital sentencing hearing," federal prosecutors wrote in a motion filed with the court this week. "Her testimony will be presented by statements she made to law enforcement officers in July 2005."

Duncan may plead guilty

BOISE – Joseph Duncan, who has been charged with kidnapping two North Idaho children in 2005 and killing one of them, is scheduled to enter a guilty plea Monday in federal court. A court document filed late Friday does not detail exactly which charges Duncan will plead to. But the penalty phase of his case now is due to begin Jan. 28, the document noted.

Duncan puts death penalty on trial

BOISE – As Joseph Duncan awaits a federal trial that could bring a death sentence, the notorious North Idaho murderer's case is becoming the focus of arguments about whether the federal death penalty is even constitutional. Duncan's attorneys have filed legal arguments saying the federal death penalty is imposed so rarely – it's resulted in only three executions in the past 40 years – that it's clearly arbitrary and unfair. Most crimes just as horrendous as those that draw the death penalty result in lesser sentences, for no apparent reason, the lawyers argue.

Duncan lawyers challenge jury rules

BOISE – Attorneys for convicted murderer Joseph Duncan have filed papers in court seeking to have his federal indictment for kidnapping, killing and child molesting thrown out because they contend Idaho's grand juror selection rules are unconstitutional. A federal grand jury indicted Duncan on 10 counts last January. His federal trial is scheduled to start in January.

Shasta’s home nearly done

Shasta Groene will have a home next week with her own petal-pink bedroom and a Caribbean-themed playroom. After months of fundraising and work, the Coeur d'Alene house built entirely with community donations for Shasta and her father, Steve Groene, is complete.

Duncan case crawls forward, 2 years later

BOISE – Lawyers are busy filing motions and compiling evidence. Court clerks are updating the docket and scheduling hearings. The federal case against Joseph Duncan is moving slowly toward trial. But in the midst of all the paperwork falls an important date: Today is the second anniversary of the slayings of Brenda Matthews Groene; her fiance, Mark McKenzie; and 13-year-old Slade Groene. The three were bludgeoned to death with a hammer at their Coeur d'Alene-area home on May 16, 2005. Young Shasta Groene and her brother, Dylan, were abducted the same day.

Students pitch in for Shasta

Aspen Stam dipped strawberries in chocolate. Byron Jarnes peddled candy bars. Tyler Opp gave up two weeks' worth of allowance. The reason: "For Shasta," said 8-year-old Tyler, a third-grade student at Lake City Junior Academy.

Shasta’s home under way

A community effort to build a house for the lone survivor of one of the Coeur d'Alene area's most notorious crimes reached a milestone Tuesday morning. More than 50 people who have donated time and money to the project gathered at the site of Shasta Groene's future home in Coeur d'Alene to watch the groundbreaking ceremony.

Duncan’s next trial set for January

Joseph Duncan will stand trial in January 2008, U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge said in an order issued Thursday. The Jan. 22, 2008, trial date is somewhat of a compromise between the requests by attorneys on both sides of the federal death penalty case.

Steve Groene says time running out

BOISE – Steve Groene told a federal court Monday that he's dying of throat cancer – and if Joseph Duncan's trial is put off for a year and a half, as the defense has requested, Groene's daughter Shasta may have no parent to support her through the trial. "Cancer is a deadly disease," Groene told U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge, speaking in the electronic monotone of a mechanical voice box. "There are no guarantees I'll be around in August of '08."

In brief: Shooting range plan for pit discussed

The Kootenai County commission wants to have another public hearing before deciding whether to allow a shooting range in a gravel pit east of state Highway 41. The April 26 hearing is on the Kootenai County sheriff's request for a conditional-use permit to operate the firearms training range in the pit owned by the Post Falls Highway District. The pit is just north of Hayden Avenue.

In brief: Prisoner sentenced for ‘04 shooting death

A man who's in prison for killing three people in a traffic collision was sentenced Thursday in another case in which he killed a man while fiddling with a loaded gun. Kevin T. Culp was sentenced to three years Thursday by Judge Maryann Moreno after he pleaded guilty to shooting 19-year-old Cedric Sykes in the neck in April 2004.

In brief: Duncan attorneys seek 18-month trial delay

Attorneys for convicted killer Joseph Duncan want to postpone his federal trial by a year and a half. Thursday's request by Duncan's attorneys comes a day after a request by federal prosecutors to delay the trial, set to start March 20, until July 9. But Duncan's attorneys are asking the trial be set for Aug. 18, 2008, so they have more time to investigate and review evidence.

‘Home for Shasta’ gains momentum

Most of the labor and materials needed to build a home for Shasta Groene have been donated, and enough cash has been raised to put a down payment on a lot not far from her school. Organizers of the "A Home for Shasta" fund drive are hoping two upcoming fundraisers will bring in the estimated $88,000 still needed to pay for the lot and other expenses.