Judge Lodge Declares Duncan Competent To Continue Hearing

BOISE, Idaho  — A federal judge in Boise has declared convicted child killer Joseph Edward Duncan mentally competent to represent himself in the sentencing phase of the trial.

The ruling handed down Thursday means the sentencing phase of Duncan’s murder and kidnapping case can proceed.

Duncan faces the death penalty on three of 10 federal charges related to the 2005 kidnapping of young Dylan and Shasta Groene and the slaying of Dylan. The two were snatched from the Coeur d’Alene home then taken to the wilderness in western Montana where they were tortured and abused.

Earlier this year, Duncan asked U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge to allow him to represent himself, claiming his attorneys could not ethically represent his ideologies. After that request, Lodge suspended the hearing and ordered Duncan to undergo psychiatric evaluations to determine his mental fitness.

“There is no evidence that Duncan suffers from a mental disease or defect that renders him incompetent, to wave his right to trial,” Judge Lodge said in court Thursday.

“The court has reviewed many of Mr. Duncan’s communications, including letters, telephone transcripts, and blogs, and although his communications may contain uncommon ideas or thoughts, they do not raise a sufficient doubt as to Mr. Duncan’s competence. Just the opposite, the expressions in his writings reveal a level of intelligence more than sufficient to evidence his understanding of this proceeding and his competency to proceed,” Judge Lodge explained.

The court has set a hearing for Monday in which they will advise Joseph Duncan again on the pitfalls of self-representation.