The first trial- Idaho v. Joseph Edward Duncan, III- is scheduled to begin on October 16th with jury selection, possibly closed from the public. (The Federal trial, concerning the kidnapping, assault/rape and torture of the two children, Shasta and Dylan, and the brutal murder of Dylan, will come later. Charges concerning the creation and dissemination of child pornography are also likely to be made. No charges have been filed for the Federal case at this time.) Whether one agrees with it or not, both Kootenai County, ID and Federal prosecutors have the death penalty in mind.
Rejecting Joseph Duncan's October 4th plea offer to confess to all these crimes and more, Kootenai County Prosecutor Bill Douglas aims to seek the death penalty for Joseph E. Duncan's home invasion, kidnapping, torture and slaying of Slade Groene, Brenda Matthews Groene, and Mark McKenzie in May, 2005. Despite Steve and Shasta Groene's personal requests for a plea deal that would prevent young Shasta from having to face her torturer and the evil which single-handedly destroyed her family, her childhood, and probably her chance for a normal future:
These horrible slayings were perpetrated by Joseph Duncan, allegedly to further his kidnapping and sexual assault plans for the two younger children, upon whom were committed some of the most odious acts of twisted, paraphiliac rage and perversion EVER. Crimes which caused the violent death of young Dylan Groene in view of his little sister, survivor Shasta- who was allegedly forced to participate in "cleaning up" the crime scene- a "camp" Joseph Duncan brought the children to in an otherwise peaceful, remote area of western Montana's Lolo National Forest. This unbelievably horrific "end" which justified Joseph Duncan's "means" will be the focus of the Federal case.
For months Groene has lobbied for a plea deal that would keep his daughter off the stand in the local case and in cases expected against Duncan in other states.
"I've said this all along: I'd rather see everybody come together and plea bargain this thing out so Shasta doesn't have to testify," Steve Groene said. "Everybody shot that down."
Idaho's Kootenai County Prosecutor Douglas obviously realizes a death penalty sentence in the State case for Joseph Duncan is a pretty safe bet, as does Kootenai County Sheriff Rocky Watson. Watson was recently quoted in this CDA Press article by Dave Turner regarding the U.S. attorney general's announcement that Federal prosecutors are allowed to seek the death penalty for Joseph Duncan :
Kootenai County Sheriff Rocky Watson said he was also in favor of the trial going ahead.This statement, as well as- and especially- those made by federal Public Defender Roger Pevan (watch his interview with KXLY here), spurred Judge Gibler to impose a gag order this morning:
"The citizens of Kootenai County were also Duncan's victims," he said. "The trial should be here."
He said if convicted, Duncan deserves to die.
"This way, you will have two shots at death because Duncan is evil," Watson said Tuesday.
Gibler also imposed a gag order on attorneys and others involved in the triple-murder trial. Gibler said he is concerned about recent statements those involved in the case have made to the news media.
In a pretrial hearing this morning, Gibler described his gag order as “quite broad” and said he is concerned about news articles in the press over the past few days.
“We’re trying to preserve anyone’s right to a fair trial,” he said. “I’m asking for some cooperation here. I’m not particularly pleased with what’s happened.”
Idaho and the Death Penalty
Idaho's Department of Correction currently houses 19 death row inmates, the oldest of whom, sentence-wise, is Lacey Sivak, now 47, who was sentenced to death in December, 1981, for his stabbing and shooting murder of a gas station attendant when he was 21 years old.
Then there is Erick Virgil Hall, convicted of the September 24, 2000 murder of Lynn Henneman, who was the first person in Idaho to be sentenced to death under the state's newly-adopted jury system for death penalty cases in October, 2004.
Hall kidnapped and raped Ms. Henneman, a flight attendant from New York, and killed her by strangling her with her own sweater. Ms. Henneman's body was found in the Boise River about two weeks after her death. Hall had an extensive criminal history at the time of Henneman's death, having raped a woman in 1991 and having assaulted at least two other women, who testified at his trial for Henneman's murder. Hall was also later found guilty of raping and murdering Cheryl Ann Hanlon in March, 2003. Hall's DNA was present on both Henneman's and Hanlon's bodies, as well as other items linking him to their deaths.
Add in Gene Stuart, convicted of beating a 3-year old toddler to death in 1982, and lone female Death Row denizen Robin Row, convicted in 1993 for the arson-related murders of her husband, son and daughter... and you have a toothless death penalty system.
Resentencing NOT required:
A decision issued by the United States Supreme Court June 24 means that 14 of the 20 Idaho prisoners sentenced to death do not have to be resentenced by a jury, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said.
The Supreme Court, in a five to four decision, reversed the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Schriro v. Summerlin."Today's decision provides much needed clarification of the Court's earlier decision in the Ring case," Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said. "As a result of the decision, the victims' families will not have to go through the trauma of resentencing proceedings for every death-sentenced defendant."
Cuckoo for Coconuts!
Yes, the Idaho Death Penalty is a joke. Especially when it comes up around an election year. Prosecutor Bill Douglas, AKA "Coconut Willy," wants your vote. It seems he's willing to ignore the pleadings of the surviving child victim and her father, as well as the similar pleadings and plea offers of the disgusting, evil defendant in this case (which happen to actually favor this child witness!), in order to serve his own Headline/Election-fueled Justice.
As Coconut Willy (Bill Douglas) states on his own website:
I have strived during my fifteen years as your elected Prosecuting Attorney to be a strong voice on behalf of crime victims and survivors by insuring that they are not forgotten in the criminal justice system. Only until recently, have victims truly begun to become part of the criminal justice system. Our Victim Assistance Coordinator and Domestic and Family Violence Victim Advocate both provide crime victims a helping hand when they encounter an intimidating court system.Well, what stronger voice could you want than 8-year old Shasta Groene and her loving father telling you that she does NOT want to face Joseph Duncan? The voices of Shasta and Steve Groene have been heard 'round the world, Mr. Douglas, and it is clear: they do not want Shasta to have to face Sickfuck Duncan in the Idaho trial.
Over the past fifteen years, we have sponsored and provided important training to members of the law enforcement community to provide them with the tools to survive the criminal justice process. We need to do an even better job in continuing to provide victims with a strong voice.
Idaho* is one of only two states** which might utilize a firing squad as a death penalty, if the preferred method of lethal injection is deemed "impractical." Idaho has executed one condemned inmate since 1976, save for Keith Wells, who "demanded" to be executed- and was- in January, 1994.
* Utah banned this method in 2004, however there are several death row inmates who were "grandfathered" at the time of the ruling and may still request this method when their time comes.
** The last death row inmate executed by firing squad in the United States was Utah's John Albert Taylor, on January 26th, 1996. Taylor was convicted of the brutal 1988 rape and murder of 11-year old Charla King.