Saturday, April 19, 2008

Joseph Edward Duncan: Trial Update

Previously published at In Cold Blog:

Jury selection began Monday in Boise, Idaho for the death penalty phase in the federal trial of Joseph Edward Duncan, III. Last December, Duncan, 45, pleaded guilty to all 10 counts of a federal indictment for kidnapping, horribly molesting and torturing two young children, and murdering one of them. He had also killed their mother and her boyfriend, as well as their 13-year old brother on May 16 or 17, 2005, in order to kidnap the children.

Wednesday, Joseph Duncan again requested to serve as his own counsel for this federal trial through Mark Larranaga, one of his attorneys. For the few readers unfamiliar with this case of a convicted pedophile who spent years in prison honing his craft until he was released back into society to achieve his murderous goals, as described in his personal blog, I've listed those 10 counts below. The three which could earn Joseph Duncan the death penalty in this federal case are highlighted in red.

1. Kidnapping Resulting in Death
2. Kidnapping
3. Aggravated Sexual Abuse of a Minor
4. Aggravated Sexual Abuse of a Minor
5. Sexual Exploitation of a Child Resulting in Death
6. Felon in Possession of a Firearm
7. Using a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence Resulting in Death
8. Transportation of a Stolen Firearm
9. Possession of an Unregistered Firearm
10. Transportation of a Stolen Vehicle

US District Judge Edward Lodge recently imposed a gag order on all parties involved with this federal trial, including court employees. Ostensibly, this is to avoid “contaminating” the jury pool among the lower 16 counties of Idaho from which the 325 potential jurors were selected. Juror selection is expected to last several more days, perhaps until the end of April, with the trial commencing in early May. In response to the gag order, The Spokesman-Review has petitioned the Court on behalf of their own and other organizations' access to court proceedings.

Betsy Russel is covering this trial for the Spokesman-Review. She has written many comprehensive pieces about this case and the trial. On the recent Juror selection, Betsy writes:

On Wednesday, 28 prospective jurors were considered. Six were dismissed based on their answers on questionnaires. Twenty-two were brought into court for individual questioning; of those, seven were dismissed. Six more were challenged by attorneys on either side, but the judge overruled the challenges.
The first prospective juror to be questioned told the court, “I just feel that anybody that does that kind of thing shouldn’t have a choice, and they should be put to death just like what they’ve done.” Under questioning from the judge, she said, “My feeling of it is that he should get the death penalty.” The juror was challenged by the defense, and the judge granted the challenge and excused her from service.

Of the seven prospective jurors eventually dismissed, all but one were challenged by the defense. One called the case a “slam-dunk death penalty” on his jury questionnaire, while another described Duncan as a “monster.” Another said he has a 9-year-old son – the same age as Duncan’s victim Dylan Groene. Asked by the judge if he thought he could be fair in this case, the young father appeared to struggle with his answer, then said, “No.”
One juror whose challenge the judge overruled told the court that she, too, has a 9-year-old son. Defense attorney Judy Clarke told her, “We’re going to ask you to watch (a video of) very graphic, sadistic sexual abuse with a 9-year-old child.”

The woman said she thought she likely would be emotional. “It will be difficult for me to sit through, absolutely,” she said. But under questioning from the judge, she said, “I do feel I can be fair.”

Regardless of the outcome of this federal case, Joseph Duncan was sentenced to life without parole for kidnapping the Groene children in the State of Idaho vs Duncan case. He still faces the death penalty in Idaho on three murder charges - previously deferred by the state judge until this federal trial is completed - for the slaying of the Groene children's family members. (In contrast, Louisiana is waiting for a Supreme Court ruling this June which will decide if that state may execute a man for raping an 8-year old.)

Joseph Duncan may also face the death penalty in California, for the abduction and murder of 10-year old Anthony Martinez from Beaumont, CA on April 4, 1997. Less likely are his chances of facing the death penalty in Washington, for the abduction and murder of two young half sisters, Sammiejo White and Carmen Cubias on July 6, 1996, if those indictments ever materialize.¹

Further, there are many questions which still exist about Duncan's involvement with several other missing & murdered child cases, two of which are:

¤ Russel Turcotte, 19, was last seen at a truck stop in Grand Forks, ND July 12, 2002, after spending the night with friends in Fargo, ND- where Joseph Duncan resided- on his way home to Montana from the Rainbow Gathering in Michigan. Surveillance cameras have placed Joseph Duncan at the same truck stop as Russell within hours of the past time Russell was placed there.

Russell's skeleton was discovered in November of 2002 in a wooded area along US RT 2 outside of Devils Lake. Russell's skeletal remains exhibited the same massive head trauma as the skeletal remains of Anthony Martinez, Sammiejo White and Carmen Cubias, and the corporeal remains of Brenda, Mark & Slade- the three people Joseph Duncan has admitted to bludgeoning to death in order to kidnap the young children.

¤ Leanna “Beaner” Warner, 5, was last seen around 5 p.m. On June 14, 2003 down the street from her home in Chisholm, MN, soon after returning home from an outing at a nearby lake. Joseph Duncan was familiar with this area- especially its lakes- having traveled to this part of Minnesota many times to scuba dive. Duncan tended to “protest too much” in his Fifth Nail blog, as many readers know. His protestations along with his efforts to document where he was and what he was doing when “Beaner” was abducted tend to stand out.

This blogger obtained a video and photos made by Joseph Duncan on that day, at a ND airport where several of his coworkers and acquaintances were skydiving. On this video, Duncan chats with another man (out of camera range) about scuba diving in the Chisholm area in recent days past. Earlier in the video, Duncan spent an extraordinary amount of camcorder resources on capturing footage of his coworkers' and friends' children running about the hangar.

According to sources who were present that day, Joseph Duncan left the airport in plenty of time to drive to Chisholm, MN and scope out Leanna Warner and her mom at the lake he was familiar with, follow them to their home, then snatch Beaner as she wandered her familiar street looking for a neighboring playmate.

  1. More information on the death penalty by state can be found at: