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Friday, April 18, 2008

Crime: Joseph Edward "JET" Duncan III

plans to represent himself at his trial.

Nothing would make us happier than to see this madman put away for life. But a defendant who represents himself has a fool for a client, and the court will do its utmost, as it must, to ensure that Mr. Duncan has adequate legal representation.

We've been following Mr. Duncan's case since it first hit the papers because it involves the mistreatment of children. If you've forgotten who Mr. Duncan is, a brief recap:

  • Joseph E. Duncan claims to have committed his first sexual crime in 1975 when, as a child of 12 years' age, he attacked and brutally raped a 5-year-old boy, according to The Cellar, a blog that has detailed information about the life and criminal career of Joseph "Jet" Duncan.

  • He subsequently sexually assaulted a 9-year-old boy at gunpoint when he was 15 years old (1978).

  • In 1979, at the age of 16, he claimed to have sexually assaulted six other boys. He also claimed that he had raped a total of 13 young boys by that time.

  • In 1980, the then nearly-17-year-old Duncan broke into a neighbour's house, stole a gun, and used it to kidnap a 14-year-old boy. He sexually assaulted the boy, beat him, and burned him with a cigarette. Subsequently, he let the boy go. He was arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

  • In 1994, despite many indications that Duncan was a high-risk offender at risk to re-offend, he was released on parole.

    Although he was rearrested and jailed several times, it appears this was for minor parole violations, and he was ultimately re-paroled. However, he did have "unauthorized contact" with minor children during the years of his parole, and several crimes committed against various children might still be linked to him. His parole was revoked in 1997, and he was re-incarcerated. Even though the Washington Department of Corrections, which had custody of him, considered keeping him incarcerated for life, they were overruled by the Parole Board, and Joseph Duncan was released from prison without probation or parole in 2000. He was 37 years old.

  • In July of 2004, Duncan molested one young boy and apparently tried to molest another.

    In the period between his release from prison and his next offense in 2004, he appears to be implicated in the disappearance of one or more children.

  • In March of 2005, Duncan was charged with the offenses committed in 2004, and a court date was set for the following month.

    In April of 2005, Duncan rented a vehicle and dropped out of sight. He wrote in his blog, Blogging the Fifth Nail, that he was under pressure. His blog posts seem to indicate that the stress was causing mental health problems. However, his actions seem to indicate the planning activities of a classic psychopath. During the period after his release from prison, Duncan managed to find employment and his various employers seemed impressed with his intelligence and skills. He also enrolled at university and made the Dean's List, choosing to major in Computer Science.

  • On 16 May 2005, Joseph Edward "Jet" Duncan III broke into the home of Brenda Matthews Groene in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, where she lived with her fiance Mark McKenzie and her children by a previous marriage &mdash 13-year-old Slade, 9-year-old Dylan, and 8-year-old Shasta.

    He held Brenda, Slade, and McKenzie at gunpoint, tied them up, and ordered Brenda to call Dylan and Shasta. When the children arrived, he took them to his rented vehicle, then returned to the house and bludgeoned the inhabitants to death with a framing hammer. He took off with the two children. The bodies were found the same day and an Amber Alert was issued for the children the next day.

    Meanwhile, although the authorities had not yet connected Duncan to the murder and abduction of the Groene children, he failed to appear for a court hearing set for May 16, so a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.

  • On June 1, a federal warrant was issued for Duncan's arrest. The FBI also obtained a warrant against Duncan.

    Meanwhile, Duncan had the children with him and was occupied with torturing and sexually abusing them, and videotaping the abuse. Approximately three weeks later, he murdered Dylan Groene.

  • On July 2, Joseph Duncan took Shasta Groene to a convenience store and then to a fast-food restaurant in Coeur d'Alene, where she was recognized by a sharp-eyed waitress. He was arrested shortly after.

  • On July 4, police investigators found human remains at a campsite Duncan had occupied. They were positively identified as Duncan Groene's on July 10th.

    Duncan has pled guilty to ten criminal counts in the kidnapping and murder of the Groene children. He also pled guilty in Idaho state court to the murders of Brenda and Slade Groene and Mark McKenzie. The kidnapped children saw their older brother emerge from the family home staggering, incoherent, and bloody. Shasta Groene also witnessed the murder of her brother Dylan.
After kidnapping the Groene children, Duncan transported them across state lines to Montana, where he held them for nearly a month. Thus, he is being charged with federal crimes regarding the two children, and state crimes regarding their older brother, their mother, and her fiance. The State of Idaho has sentenced Duncan to life in prison for the kidnappings of Brenda and Slade Groene and Mark McKenzie. It has not yet sentenced him on the murder charges. It is not clear whether Duncan is serving a single life sentence, or a life sentence for each crime, to be served consecutively. If he does not receive the death penalty for the 10 Federal counts to which he pled guilty, the State of Idaho will then move to request the death penalty for Duncan in the Groene/McKenzie murders.

Duncan is currently being prosecuted by the federal attorney in Kootenai County, Idaho. Extensive ongoing coverage about the Groene/McKenzie murders and kidnappings is available at the Idaho SpokesmanReview.

Why are we blogging about this now? Because although Duncan agreed to plead guilty in 2007 with the understanding that Shasta Groene would not have to testify against him in court, we're afraid that, now that Duncan is attempting to represent himself, he might be permitted to cross-examine her. She is the only witness to the murders of Dylan, Slade, and Brenda Groene, and Mark McKenzie. She is also the only person who can testify to her own sexual abuse and the sexual abuse of her brother Dylan.

Why he didn't kill the child is beyond us. Surely he realized that she could send him to the chair or death chamber. And he certainly showed no mercy at all to the other members of her family.

Shasta Groene is now eleven years old. She has lost her mother and both her brothers. She has lost the comfort and security with which every child faces the world. It was brutally torn from her by Joseph E. Duncan. Shasta's father, Steven Groene, has throat cancer and is unable to work. As a result, he and his daughter have suffered through a period of homelessness.

Their community has responded by banding together to build them a house, which will be held in trust for the child when she reaches the age of 25 years. At that time, she will also have access to donated funds that have been set aside for her.

But right now, we're too busy worrying if Joseph Duncan planned to represent himself with the intention of ripping open the half-healed wounds he inflicted on this little girl. Perhaps even he is not that cruel. We fear for her fragile mental health.

Torture. It's bad, no matter who is on the receiving end.

To help Shasta and Steven Groene, send your shekels to:

Windermere/Coeur d'Alene Realty
Attn: Midge Smock
1000 Northwest Blvd
Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814


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At 3:37 PM, Blogger dad said...

[sigh] it's stories like this that, much against my will, bring my shadowy inner republican to the surface.

i feel like writing two checks - one to the groenes, and one to the people doing the studies at UW and MIT.

At 11:47 PM, Blogger ThePoliticalCat said...


I wish there was some way to get in touch with you. What does it mean, to have a shadowy inner republican? Have you ever read Sherri Tepper? She's as not-republican as a person can be, but she &mdash like me &mdash believes that there is evil, and there are predators, like Joseph Duncan, who can only be saved if someone is willing to spend a lot of time and energy giving them love. That can't happen because no one is willing to do the work. You can't pay people to give love. What that means is, the Joseph Duncans of this world can't be saved.

Do you have a better solution to this problem? I'd really like to hear it because I don't want an inner republican.


At 11:50 PM, Blogger ThePoliticalCat said...

Dad &mdash

I just saw your links. I will follow up. Many thanks.

At 10:39 AM, Blogger BadTux said...

It's the death penalty thing. Duncan appears to have no problem with going to jail for the rest of his life, but he doesn't want to die before his time. While you might say that he should have thought about that before murdering other people, studies show that murderers rarely consider the consequences of their actions and that psychopaths rarely consider the possibility that they might actually get caught for their crimes. I.e., the death penalty has absolutely no deterrent value, since virtually all murderers either are acting impulsively or are psychopaths who do not consider the possibility of actually getting caught for their crimes.

On the other hand, the death penalty certainly does have some deterrent value when it comes to deterring people from giving a break to vulnerable witnesses to a crime. If you are an attorney and you are charged with defending Duncan against a death penalty charge, you must call Shasta Groene as a witness and cross-examine her brutally, or you are not doing your duty to your client. If the penalty was merely life in prison on top of his other life in prison charges, however, you could probably convince your client to simply plead out the charges, it's not as if he's not already going to spend the rest of his life in prison. But the death penalty... (shrug). Changes the game. Which is another reason why the death penalty is counterproductive in these kinds of cases...

As for the notion that Duncan himself would be allowed to cross-examine his victim... let us hope that the judge will find some pretext for appointing a court-ordered attorney before that happens.

-- Badtux the Law Penguin

At 12:22 AM, Blogger ThePoliticalCat said...

For an attorney to put Shasta Groene on the stand is one thing. It would be unpleasant, but one must fight for one's client's life. And frankly, she would be a dangerous witness because jurors would be much too likely to sympathise with her. So her prejudicial value as a witness outweighs the probative value of putting her on the stand.

But to actually allow Duncan to question her &mdash that would be completely unacceptable. The man held her for six weeks, tortured her, murdered most of her family. His ability to inflict damage on her still wounded psyche would be intolerably high.

I'm hoping the judge in charge of the case will find some way to prevent this.

At 12:40 AM, Blogger BadTux said...

My suspicion is that there's an easy way to avoid it, and it's in the prosecution's hands. I suspect that a meeting between the prosecutor and Mr. Duncan where the prosecutor offers a plea-bargain deal of life in prison in exchange for a guilty plea would serve the purpose. After all, Mr. Duncan is already going to spend life in prison for the crimes he has already pled guilty to. Unfortunately, in this case it appears that this is a deal that the prosecutor's office does not wish to pursue, perhaps for fear of the prosecutor being accused of being "soft on crime" on his performance assessments by the Justice Department under administrative policies that call for pursuing death penalty cases of this sort wherever possible.

I have no way, of course, to verify this suspicion. But given the facts here, such as the fact that Mr. Duncan has already been sentenced to multiple life sentences and thus would have no problem pleading guilty to another one, it appears to be the only one which makes any sense. The Bush Administration would rather put a child on the stand to be cross-examined by a killer than give up its precious ideology that the death penalty is a good thing.

- Badtux the Law Penguin

At 4:44 AM, Blogger Charles J. "Sonny" said...

There is only one thing that a human society should do with this wad of filth. Serve him a
chemical cocktail that permanently ends his rein of evil on this Earth.

At 11:15 AM, Blogger BadTux said...

So, Chuck, you're saying that vengeance is more important than protecting a young girl from further trauma?

This scum is already going to be behind bars for the rest of his human life. Pretty much in solitary confinement, for that matter, because folks in prisons don't like child molesters and child killers. The only humane thing to do would be to allow him to plead guilty and put him back in solitary, rather than further traumatizing a young girl by forcing her to testify against him (and without her testimony the prosecution has no case, so testify she will). He will not, of course, plead guilty as long as pleading guilty means he will be put to death. So: Vengeance? Or mercy -- for the girl?

That is the prosecution's choice. And they have chosen vengeance. Not the least because this is official Bush Administration policy (that death penalty cases always be pursued even when it's not in the best interests of the survivors).

- Badtux the Law Penguin

At 11:54 PM, Blogger porshe said...

The timing and subterfuge suggest the unscrupulous Saakashvili counted on surprise. “Most decision makers have gone for the holidays,” he told CNN. “Brilliant moment to attack a small country,” not long after Georgia had just launched a full-scale invasion of the “small country” South Ossetia, while Russian Prime Minister was in Beijing.

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At 5:32 PM, Blogger Thomas said...

This bitch is going to die horribly in Jail I promise that....Thought your piece of shit ass was safe --they can watch your 24/7 MF we are going to get you.... IDAHO better eveacuate that whole prison we are comignfor this PIECE OF SHIT!!!VX NERVE

At 9:04 PM, Blogger ThePoliticalCat said...

Er ... Thomas, exactly whom are you addressing? I don't believe Joseph Duncan reads this blog.

I also think it is highly likely he will get the death penalty.

At 11:40 AM, Blogger Eric said...

The fact of the matter is that Duncan should have been behind bars to begin with. How many children suffered at the hands of this POS before he was finally caught the last time? Dozens, according to Duncan himself. In and out of prison his whole worthless life, he continued to prove what he was over and over again until it culminated with this poor little girl being repeatedly raped, watching her own brother be killed by this animal, and having her mother, older brother, and stepfather beaten to death with a framing hammer. This guy should have never been on the streets to begin with. Some people commit acts that are so horrific that the only answer is death. This case is a shining example of one twisted scumbag that needs to be killed. Even if the average murderous piece of filth doesn't think about the ramifications of their actions when committing the crime, they sure will think about it for a long time when they're the ones in the cross hairs and they know that they're such miserable excuses to the human race that they don't deserve to draw another breath, and that death will be granted to them on a specific date and time with the victims families watching the whole process. Good riddance.


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