Jury To Decide If Duncan Will Get Death Penalty

BOISE — Last Friday a jury in Boise decided Joseph Duncan was eligible for the death penalty. On Monday they began to determine whether or not he would get the death penalty.

In two hours Friday the jury determined Duncan’s crimes met the criteria to make him eligible for the death penalty. Now the jury will hear about Duncan’s past criminal history as well as from family members of the victims and then will retire to decide whether or not he should face the death penalty.

During this second phase the jury would hear testimony that would fall under victim impact and future dangerousness.

For the first time in the case Joseph Duncan turned to his legal counsel to assist him in arguing his defense, asking them to argue on his behalf whether previous bad acts were admissable in court. They argued the events the prosecution would introduce were unadjudicated and were also unduly predudicial and unadmissable.

Following a brief recess Judge Edward Lodge ruled against the defense’s motion, saying the jury can hear about Duncan’s criminal history that extend beyond the charges he is facing in the current case, saying that the evidence of previous bad acts is highly relevant and that he doesn’t feel Duncan’s violent tendancies would stop at the prison gates.

One of the first witnesses called to the stand to testify was FBI Special Agent Mike Sotka, who testified that during a recorded interview Duncan he confessed to the murder of Anthony Martinez, a 10-year-old boy who disappeared from his home in Riverside County, California in 1997.

Agent Sotka also described Duncan’s confession to another pair of murders from the Seattle area in the mid-1990s. In July of 1996 11-year-old Sammie Jo White and 9-year-old Carmen Cubias walked to a Taco Time near their home but it was closed.

Duncan was leaving his girlfriend’s house, saw the girls and killed them both by hitting them each over the head with a crow bar. He then buried their bodies, telling Agent Sotka that this had been his first act of revenge for going to prison for the 1980 rape he committed against a 14-year-old boy.

Marcos Medina, Anthony’s brother, was called to the stand after Agent Sotka to testify on how a man drove up into the alley behind their house and said he had lost his cat. The man called them over, offering them a dollar to help find his cat. Medina told the jury they went looking for the cat and went back to tell the man they couldn’t it; it was at this point the man drew a knife and grabbed Anthony and pulled him into his car.

Medina, who is now 17, said that was the last time he saw his brother alive. The man, according to his jailhouse confession with Agent Sotka, was Joseph Duncan.

Riverside County Prosecutor Rod Pacheco confirmed Friday night his intent to seek the death penalty in California against Duncan for Anthony Martinez’s murder.

The testimony being brought by prosecutors is designed to convince a jury that Duncan should be executed for the kidnapping, torture and murder of 9-year-old Dylan Groene in 2005.

In the next few days Duncan will be given the option to present evidence to balance against the heinousness of the crime in an effort to sway the jurors toward a life sentence.

Duncan pleaded guilty last year to 10 federal charges related to the kidnapping and torture of Dylan and his sister Shasta Groene, and to Dylan’s murder. And he’s already been convicted in state court to murdering 13-year-old Slade Groene, his mother Brenda Groene and her boyfriend Mark McKenzie.

Of the seven people believed to be his victims, only two – Brenda Groene and Mark McKenzie – were adults while the rest were kids between the ages of 9 and 13.

All but one were bludgeoned to death; Dylan Groene was shot twice.