08 April 2019 :
U.S. District Court Judge Edward Lodge ruled against Joseph E. Duncan III on Friday on a 12-argument appeal by the killer, who initially pleaded guilty to all state and federal charges. In 2008, a federal jury sentenced Duncan to three death penalties that attorneys later challenged. Except for one pending legal matter, Lodge found against Duncan in all arguments and affirmed two of three death penalties against him. Duncan, now 56, White, was sentenced to death after an incredibly violent spate of crimes in which he stalked 2 small children, broken into their Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, home and killed 3 people there before abducting the 8- and 9-year-olds. Duncan then took the kids deep into Montana’s Lolo National Forest, where he tortured and raped them for weeks. He eventually killed 9-year-old Dylan Groene, and later returned with the 8-year-old girl to Idaho, where he was captured. It was at least his 2nd, and possibly his 4th, child murder: Duncan was later convicted in the 1997 abduction and murder of a California boy, and federal prosecutors said Duncan confessed to killing 2 young half-sisters in Seattle in 1996. Duncan challenged his sentence in the Idaho case on multiple fronts, saying in part that his attorneys were ineffective, that graphic video evidence used during his sentencing hearing unfairly prejudiced the jury against him, and that the judge failed to appreciate how “irrational and deluded” Duncan was when he waived his right to appeal. But Lodge said the court took care to ensure that Duncan was competent to waive his rights. “Duncan competently, clearly, knowingly, intelligently, voluntarily and unequivocally elected to waive his right to appeal,” Lodge noted in the ruling. “Duncan understood and knew the pros and cons of his decision and that the decision was his to make.” Some of the evidence used in the federal case included videos and photographs Duncan made that showed him torturing and abusing the children he kidnapped. Lodge said that graphic evidence — though it was particularly horrific and difficult to watch — had a “clear and overwhelming” value to the jurors as they considered whether or not Duncan should be put to death for his crimes. “The videos capture the very crimes which Duncan has been charged and plead guilty to; unmistakably showing Duncan’s heinous, cruel, and depraved manner in committing the criminal acts against his victims and the circumstances surrounding those acts,” Lodge wrote. Ultimately, the jury found Duncan should be put to death for 3 of the 10 federal charges of which he was convicted: kidnapping resulting in death, sexual exploitation of a child resulting in death and using a firearm during a crime of violence resulting in death. Lodge upheld the death penalty for the kidnapping and sexual exploitation charges, but said his ruling on the death penalty for using a firearm during a crime of violence would have to wait. Both the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court are expected to issue rulings soon in separate and unrelated cases that also involve the firearm-related charge. Those rulings could determine whether that federal crime statute is unconstitutionally vague, as Duncan says in his appeal. Regardless of the outcome on the firearm-related charge, the imposition of the death sentences for the kidnapping and sexual exploitation related charges remain in full effect, Lodge said. On Nov. 15, 2008, Duncan sent a letter to Lodge stating “if any appeal is initiated on my behalf, it is done contrary to my wishes.” Lodge later concluded after a hearing that Duncan did, indeed, seek to waive his right to appeal the death penalty sentences. “Nevertheless, the Ninth Circuit heard the appeal ‘for the limited purpose of reviewing the district court’s competency determinations’ and concluded that (Lodge) erred by not holding a competency hearing to determine whether Duncan competently waived his right to appeal,” court records state. In 2009, after weeks of testimony in connection to a separate child murder case in California, a judge and jury determined that Duncan was competent. Lodge later ruled in 2013 that Duncan was competent at the time he waived his appeal in 2008, which the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in 2015. Then in 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request by Duncan’s attorneys to consider the case. In 2017, Duncan filed the most recent petition, which Lodge ruled on Friday. Lodge’s order Friday “denies Duncan’s post-conviction claims and upholds Duncan’s convictions and sentences on all counts with the exception of one,” wrote Stephon Kenyon, the clerk of U.S. District Court in Idaho. “Duncan’s sentences on two of the three death penalty counts are affirmed as are his multiple life sentences and additional terms of imprisonment on all of the non-capital crimes.” In the California case, Duncan was convicted of killing 10-year-old Anthony Martinez, bringing him a total of 11 life sentences in addition to the death sentences. Duncan, now 56, awaits his death sentence while residing in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.