High Court denies Joseph Duncan's appeal

Posted at 4:52 PM, Mar 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-02 18:52:08-05

The United States Supreme Court Monday denied convicted killer Joseph Duncan’s petition to hear his appeal, according to U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson.

The Court’s action leaves in place Senior U.S. District Court Judge Edward Lodge’s December 2013 finding that Duncan was competent to waive his appeal, which had been affirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in March 2015.

The three federal death sentences returned by a jury in August 2008 and imposed by Judge Lodge also remain in place, Olson said.

No execution date has been set, and Duncan’s attorneys still may seek other post-conviction relief through federal habeas proceedings.

Duncan pleaded guilty in federal district court in Boise in December 2007 to a ten-count indictment charging him with various crimes related to the 2005 murder of Dylan Groene, 9, and his eight-year-old sister, Shasta, from their home outside Coeur d’Alene.

Duncan admitted killing the boy in the Lolo National Forest in Montana. Three of the charges to which Duncan pleaded guilty made him eligible for the death penalty under federal law.

Duncan was represented by legal counsel at his guilty plea, but elected to represent himself at the capital sentencing hearing. Although Judge Lodge found both that Duncan was competent to represent himself at the capital sentencing hearing and subsequently to waive his right to appeal, the Ninth Circuit originally ruled in July of 2011 that Judge Lodge should have held an evidentiary hearing on competency and ordered him to do so retrospectively.

Judge Lodge conducted the hearing in January and February of 2013. He issued a sixty-six page order in December 2013 finding Duncan competent. After the Ninth Circuit affirmed that decision last year, Duncan’s attorneys sought Supreme Court review through filing of a petition for a writ of certiorari. Monday, the Supreme Court denied the petition.

“The United States remains confident that all appropriate legal process has been afforded to Mr. Duncan, and that he was competent and able to exercise his Sixth Amendment right to represent himself,” said Olson. “We are pleased that the Supreme Court declined to hear further direct appeal in this case. We will continue to defend this lawful prosecution and Judge Lodge’s deliberate and thorough consideration of the defendant’s competency. We will continue to seek justice for the victims in this case through any efforts by Mr. Duncan’s attorneys to seek post-conviction review. Mr. Duncan’s crimes were heinous and tragic for the victims, their family, and the north Idaho communities in which they occurred. We need to bring this to a close.”

Duncan also pleaded guilty in Idaho state court for the 2005 kidnapping and murders of his federal victims’ mother, 13-year-old brother and mother’s boyfriend. He separately pleaded guilty in Riverside County, California, to the murder of an 11-year-old boy there in 1997.

In addition to the three federal death sentences, he faces six life sentences for his Idaho state convictions, three life sentences for his Idaho federal convictions, and one life sentence for his California conviction