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Federal judge in Idaho reinstates death penalty against killer Joseph Duncan

March 23, 2019

Convicted killer Joseph E. Duncan III just got a fresh seat back on death row.

U.S. District Court Judge Edward Lodge ruled against Duncan on Friday on a 12-argument appeal by the killer, who initially pleaded guilty to all state and federal charges. In 2008, a 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 reinstated two of three death penalties against him.

“Duncan claims the combination and cumulative effect of the problems and errors he alleges occurred from the beginning to the end of his case, deprived him of his constitutional rights to a fair and reliable proceedings and due process and, as a result, his conviction and death sentence should not be allowed to stand,” Lodge wrote on Friday. “For the reasons stated in this order, except as to count seven, the court finds Duncan’s claims are without merit.”

Duncan became one of the region’s most notorious outlaws in 2005 when he saw 8-year-old Shasta Groene wearing a swimsuit while playing in her yard east of Coeur d’Alene. That prompted the registered sex offender to stop as he drove by on Interstate 90.

Duncan then used duct tape and zip ties to bind Brenda Groene, 40, her boyfriend, 37-year-old Mark McKenzie and her 13-year-old son, Slade Groene, before using a claw hammer to bludgeon them to death. Duncan then kidnapped Shasta and 9-year-old Dylan Groene and drove them to Montana where he sexually molested them multiple times before killing Dylan.

In 2008, after pleading guilty, the federal jury handed down the three death sentences for kidnapping, sexual exploitation and use of a firearm resulting in the death of Dylan.

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” and 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, currently awaits his death sentence while residing in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

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