Duncan Verdict: Death

BOISE — After three hours of deliberation Wednesday a Boise jury has handed down the death sentence to Joseph Duncan for the 2005 murder of 9-year-old Dylan Groene.

A federal jury deliberated just three hours before reaching the unanimous verdict.

“I was not really surprised,” US Attorney Tom Moss said on the steps of the court house about the amount of time the jury took to reach their verdict. “I felt the evidence was compelling, it was clear, it was clean, there was basically no mitigation presented.

The jurors’ recommendation was binding on U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge, who thanked them, dismissed them and then issued the sentence.

“We believe this is a good result, a fair result,” Moss said.

Duncan faced the death penalty on three of 10 federal charges related to the kidnapping and murder of Dylan Groene. He pleaded guilty to all 10 counts in December, and last week the jury unanimously decided that Duncan was eligible for the death penalty.

“To see justice served, I knew that was why I was here,” Darlene Torres, the grandmother of Dylan and Shasta Groene said shortly after the verdict was read.

Torres mentioned the heartache she’s dealt with since losing her daughter Brenda and grandsons Slade and Dylan, something that she said will never go away.

“At least I know he’s not out there hurting anyone else … and for that I’m thankful,” she said.

Torres thanked the jury, saying that she imagined it was a hard decision and justice wouldn’t have been served without them.

For Dylan’s father Steve Groene, the jury’s verdict was something that he had been fighting to live to see ever since his diagnosis and treatment for throat cancer.

“I think God kept me around to see justice for my children and hopefully he’ll keep me around a little longer so I can watch my daughter grow up in the way I wasn’t allowed to see my boys grow up,” he said.

In Coeur d’Alene, Lee McKenzie Wood has been following the blogs online and on Wednesday followed the verdict on television, hoping to get some justice for her son Mark McKenzie, who was killed along with Brenda and Slade Groene in their Wolf Lodge Bay home the night that Dylan and Shasta were abducted.

“I’m relieved, I know that he’s gong to die, it may take a long time but he’s going to die,” Lee said.

It was one of the shortest deliberations in a federal death penalty case in recent memory; in comparison the jury in the Timothy McVeigh case took 11 hours to decide he should face the death penalty for the Oklahoma City Bombings.

As has been the case from the start prosecutors outlined all the reasons to a Boise jury why Joseph Duncan should receive the death sentence while Duncan didn’t say a single word in his own defense.

Duncan’s usually stoic demeanor cracked when he smirked briefly as his verdict was handed to Judge Lodge.

Duncan may now be brought to Riverside County, Calif., to face a murder charge there for the 1997 slaying of 10-year-old Anthony Martinez. Riverside County Prosecutor Rod Pacheco said last Friday he still intended regardless of the outcome of the federal trial in Boise to prosecute Duncan.

Pacheco said he would seek the death penalty against Duncan for Martinez’s murder.

The death sentence in federal court means that Duncan will not be returning to Kootenai County. As a part of his sentencing in Coeur d’Alene for the murders of Brenda and Slade Groene and Mark McKenzie, prosecutors left the door open for a death penalty sentencing hearing if Duncan did not receive the death penalty for Dylan’s murder in federal court.

In her final assessment of the verdict, Darlene Torres said that Duncan’s days are numbered.

“His judgment day is coming yet. He will pay,” Darlene Torres said.

For Lee McKenzie Wood there is no end to the grief over the loss of her son Mark, but in Duncan’s death sentence there was hope of moving on with her life.

“I’ll never stop grieving, that part will never change, but I can start living and not worrying about Duncan anymore,” she said. 

NOTE: If you have thoughts you would like to share about Duncan’s death penalty verdict, please head over to our blogs here to share your thoughts and opinions with the rest of the community