Jury Decides Joseph Duncan is Mentally Fit to Stand Trial in 1997 CA Murder

Started by Jeff1857, August 28, 2009, 10:11:07 PM

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August 28, 2009, 10:11:07 PM Last Edit: August 28, 2009, 10:12:45 PM by Jeff1857
INDIO, Calif. (AP) - A convicted killer is competent to stand trial in the kidnap-murder of a 10-year-old Southern California boy more than a decade ago.

A jury on Friday decided Joseph Edward Duncan III is mentally fit to stand trial for the 1997 kidnap, torture and murder of Anthony Martinez. The boy was abducted as he played with his brother near their Beaumont home, and his nude and battered body was found two weeks later in the desert east of Los Angeles.

Jurors spent four weeks listening to testimony from psychologists and psychiatrists who assessed Duncan's mental state.

Duncan's murder trial can now go forward with a different jury.

Duncan was convicted of murdering a couple and two children in Idaho in 2005. He has received three death sentences.
Note: Duncan is a current Federal DR Inmate. The thread on the Federal case and trial can be found here:




INDIO - On his first day acting as his own attorney Friday, Joseph Edward Duncan III refused to answer a judge's question.

The convicted killer, who is now facing trial for a charge of murder in the 1997 death of 10-year-old Anthony Martinez of Beaumont, was granted the request Monday to represent himself, called pro-per, in the death-penalty trial.

Friday's hearing was intended to settle a question whether the Riverside County public defender's office needed to remain as stand-by counsel after being relieved as Duncan's attorney.

A decision on that matter was postponed, but prosecutors and the court got a glimpse of Duncan's defense plan.

Duncan, already convicted in the slayings of several people in Idaho, sat in the jury box of an Indio courtroom Friday with his eyes closed, as he usually does, until the judge addressed him.

Judge David B. Downing called on the prosecutor and Duncan to announce their presence in court for the record. Duncan didn't answer.

"Mr. Duncan you don't have lawyers anymore. To represent yourself, you have to announce you're present," Downing said.

"I prefer to be silent," Duncan answered.

"Stop messing around or I'm going to jerk your pro-per status," Downing said. "You have to do it this way. I don't care whether you like it or not."

"It goes against my philosophy," Duncan said.

"I don't care about your philosophy. I could care less. You're going to do it my way," Downing said.

After the judge explained that the hearing couldn't start until Duncan announced his presence, Duncan eventually said, "I'm Joseph Duncan, pro-per," but not before calling the process "ritualistic" and against his beliefs.

"I have no intention to act as my own attorney," Duncan said later. "I don't want to make this difficult for you. I know it's difficult just having me here."

"You've no idea, Mr. Duncan, but go ahead," Downing said

"I've been accused of a crime in this society and I want to stand before my accusers and be honest," Duncan said. "I should not have to be a lawyer."

Duncan's court-appointed public defender, Richard Verlato, said he had not found any requirement the public defender's office was required to act as Duncan's stand-by counsel, but would consult with his supervisors.

Downing said he didn't want to leave Duncan without any representation. He said he would consult with the Riverside County presiding judge about options.

Duncan said he would like to allow attorneys to procedurally try the case, but it was a "struggle" with his beliefs. He said he would like to choose a pro-death jury.

"I would rather be killed by someone with a confident decision that is sure this is right, rather than someone who's not sure this is the right decision."

"If I do what the system dictates, it's an evolved form of religion...," Duncan said. "They want me to bow down before this religion and false god. I can't do that. That's where I draw the line."


heidi salazar

Judge release public defender's office from acting as standby counsel for man facing death sentence

A judge today released the Riverside County public defender's office from acting as standby counsel for a man facing a death sentence if convicted in the kidnap-slaying of a Beaumont boy.

Joseph Edward Duncan III, 46, is representing himself against first-degree murder and other charges stemming from the 1997 death of 10-year-old Anthony Martinez, who was snatched from an alley in Beaumont by a knife-wielding assailant and was found dead weeks later in the Coachella Valley.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge David Downing said he feels compelled to appoint attorneys to follow the proceedings, in case Duncan decides he wants a lawyer or his self-representation status is taken away.

"The problem in this county is I don't know who is going to do it," said Downing, who added that he has consulted with death penalty judges in Los Angeles and San Diego counties.

Downing said that Los Angeles County has a panel of standby attorneys who are available to step into self-representation death penalty cases if the need arises.

"We don't have that here," Downing said. "We should and we don't."

Assistant Public Defender Robert Willey told the judge that his office has never acted as standby counsel in a capital case.

He said the court's criminal calendar would be backlogged in order to provide a public defender to spend time following the case.

Willey added that because of Duncan's ideas on representing himself, any attorney stepping in would have to spend at least a month investigating the case.

Duncan has stated previously that he will not cross-examine witnesses or present a defense because of his belief system. Duncan has said that he can only tell his ``truth'' by being silent in court.

"I don't think Mr. Duncan is going to be changing his mind,'' Willey said. "The role of standby counsel in its model form is not accomplished here."

In releasing the public defender's office, Downing said he will likely appoint at least one attorney and an investigator from a conflict panel with which the county contracts to take cases outside the scope of the public defender's office.

Before the proceedings began, Duncan refused to identify himself to the court.

"If you don't stop messing around with me, I'm going to jerk your pro per status," the judge told the defendant.

In response, Duncan gave the judge two letters explaining why he would not identify himself.

Deputy District Attorney Otis Sterling, who read the documents, said outside the courtroom that Duncan sought to clarify his beliefs about his self- representation.

A Dec. 7 preliminary hearing is set to determine whether there is enough evidence to go to trial.

If convicted, Duncan could face the death penalty. He has already been sentenced to death for the kidnapping, molestation and murder of a 9-year-old boy in Idaho.

He was also sentenced to life terms for kidnapping and molesting Dylan Groene's 8-year-old sister, who survived, and for killing the children's 13-year-old brother, their mother and her fiance at the family's home.

Duncan admitted he tortured and sexually abused the children over several weeks before shooting Dylan in the head at a remote Montana campsite while his sister watched. He was arrested in July 2005 after a waitress at a Coeur d'Alene restaurant recognized him and the kidnapped girl.

Duncan was tied to the Indio case during questioning in Idaho. Partial fingerprints found on the duct tape that was used to bind Anthony were subsequently matched to Duncan, according to the prosecution.


heidi salazar

Laptop access holding up trial of man charged in slaying of Anthony Martinez.

INDIO -- A judge expressed frustration Friday over a months-long delay in getting a laptop computer for a confessed child killer accused in the kidnap- slaying of a Beaumont boy so he can prepare for trial.

Joseph Edward Duncan III, 47, is representing himself against first-degree murder and other charges stemming from the April 1997 slaying of 10-year-old Anthony Martinez.

Duncan, who has already been sentenced to death for other slayings that took place in Idaho, could receive another death penalty if convicted.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge David Downing held a hearing Friday on why Duncan has not been given a laptop so the defendant can review nearly 30,000 pages of evidence to prepare a defense.

Deputy District Attorney Otis Sterling had previously agreed to try and help Duncan get access to the computer he used during the federal case in Idaho, but has been unable to do so.

On Friday, the prosecutor said his office would not provide Duncan with a replacement because an exception would not be made for one case.

The judge noted it has been nearly five months since the promise of a laptop was made, and without one Duncan will not be able to process all of the evidence in time for trial.

"I want to get the trial going. We can't get it going without discovery," Downing said.

The judge said Duncan is entitled to the documents from his California and Idaho cases. Duncan has already been sentenced to death for the kidnapping, molestation and murder of a 9-year-old boy in Idaho, where he was linked to the Beaumont case during questioning.

"You would need a mule train to carry the paperwork into the cell," Downing said.

But the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, which runs the jail, does not allow electronic devices in individual jail cells.

Sterling said Duncan had been given hard copies of the documents related to the Martinez slaying, but that his office was still working on redacting sensitive information from evidence on the Idaho case.


heidi salazar

Cost of death for Duncan questioned

The death penalty trial of Joseph Edward Duncan III already has cost Riverside County more than $167,000, and legal experts say the murder trial could total several million dollars by the time it's completed.

Since January 2009, the Riverside County district attorney's office has been prosecuting Duncan, who has already been sentenced to death for murders in Idaho, in the 1997 killing, torture and sexual assault of 10-year-old Anthony Martinez of Beaumont.

The district attorney extradited Duncan, 47, to face murder charges in Indio for Anthony's death after Duncan was convicted of murdering a family of four in Idaho. He was sentenced by an Idaho federal and state court to three death sentences and nine life terms.

Riverside County so far has been billed at least $167,665, according to documents detailing expenses for the defense, jail housing and transportation of Duncan. Those numbers do not include prosecution or defense attorney hours or district attorney investigation costs.

Martinez's mother, Diana Gonzales, who lives in Kansas, said she supports the district attorney prosecuting the case. Gonzales said her family and the community of Beaumont have waited more than 13 years for her son's killer to be sent to trial and find justice for Anthony.

"My son was not a nameless, faceless nobody that was here one day and gone the next. He was a handsome, fun-loving boy with a heart of gold," Gonzales said in an e-mail. "... Should justice for Tony be swept aside simply because Joseph Duncan has been found guilty in other cases? I don't think so."

Anthony was kidnapped at knifepoint outside his home in April 1997 while he was playing with his brother in an alley. His nude body was found duct-taped and covered with rocks 15 days later in Joshua Tree National Park, north of Indio.

Duncan has confessed to killing Anthony and is representing himself. Since he has refused an attorney, he is prohibited by state law from pleading guilty. He is spending his days at the Indio Jail and has a tentative Sept. 1 trial date, but Duncan has said he may need another one to three years to prepare his defense.

Duncan was transferred from federal death row in Terre Haute, Ind., to California in an agreement with federal prosecutors that he would be returned immediately if an order for execution is issued. He will return to federal custody if convicted in Riverside County.

Fiscal priority

Riverside County Public Defender Gary Windom has questioned why Duncan is being prosecuted here, when he already has been convicted and sentenced in another case and the county is in a fiscal crisis.

The public defender's office represented Duncan until he was allowed to act as his own attorney in September.

"No matter how you slice it, it's an expensive commodity," Assistant Public Defender Robert Willey said. "There's absolutely no reason to try this case here. We're dedicating courtroom time and a trial whenever it may go. And at any given point in time, the federal authorities could call and say, 'We're ready to execute him.' "

District Attorney Rod Pacheco has stood by the decision to prosecute Duncan to achieve justice for Anthony Martinez.

"The reason we feel this is important is a 10-year-old boy was kidnapped, tortured and murdered in our county and it's important to us that that child gets justice," district attorney's spokesman Michael Jeandron said. "We're not going to tell a 10-year-old child and his family that their case is not important enough to prosecute."

The average death penalty trial can cost $3 million to $7 million, said Michael Radelet, a University of Colorado sociology professor and death penalty expert.

"What goal is accomplished for spending several million on this case when we know the prosecutor will look tough on crime?" Radelet said. "It's not about whether this case is worth it. It's about whether it's worth it compared to other ways to spend the money and keep schools open."


The public defender's office spent at least $96,589, most of it related to a jury trial on his competency, on Duncan's case from January 2009 to September, according to expense forms from the office. The office spent $83,622 on five mental health and legal experts to testify as witnesses on Duncan's mental health.

It cost $8,500 to fly Duncan from the federal prison in Indiana. District attorney officials said the county would be reimbursed for the expense by the state.

The district attorney's office and public defender's office said they could not provide a breakdown of attorney hours spent working on the case because the senior attorneys are salaried and handle multiple criminal cases simultaneously.

Jail records show it has cost the Riverside County Sheriff's Department $57,997 to house Duncan at the Indio Jail. There have been no unusual costs to monitor Duncan at the jail, said Capt. Raymond Gregory, commander of the jail. That follows the average inmate cost of $122.10 per day for the 475 days he has been held in Riverside County as of April 19.

The average cost of a Riverside County courtroom is $1,900 per day through state funding, said Michael Capelli, general counsel for the Riverside County Superior Court. Duncan has made 38 court appearances for either partial or full days, according to court records.

On Feb. 16, Riverside County Superior Court Judge David B. Downing appointed an Indio private investigator, Enrique Tira, to assist Duncan at $75 per hour to be billed to the county.

The judge said Duncan has the legal right to an investigator. So far, Tira has issued one voucher, on March 5, for $4,278.35 for his hours and for books purchased for Duncan.

timing questioned

Willey said the case did not have a significant impact on its budget. The office allocates funding for expected death penalty cases each year, but Willey said the money could better be served to aid the county's frail budget and taking away hours from other cases.

"It's frustrating as a taxpayer and a county manager," Willey said. "We're listening to departments closing clinics, not being able to maintain parks and roads and reducing staff in mental health and social welfare," Willey said

Willey said he is concerned that the legal action in Riverside County could open the door to appeals that could overturn Duncan's existing federal convictions. He also questioned whether the prosecution is motivated by political ambitions.

Steve Groene, the father of two children Duncan killed and a third he kidnapped in Idaho, arrived at the Indio courthouse during a hearing last May to offer support to the Martinez family, who did not attend. Groene said he understands the family's desire for justice, but he doesn't want the California case to delay Duncan's execution.

Jeandron said the case has not had any significant impact on the county's budget. In response to the case being politically motivated, he said the case is being pursued to ensure justice for Anthony.

"Whether or not Anthony Martinez deserves justice is not an issue of whether it's financially acceptable. We're not in a position to say if it's too expensive to consider that," Jeandron said. "What we're doing will double lock the door so a serial killer and rapist is sentenced to death, whether it be in Idaho or California. We're making sure his fate is sealed."

Death penalty dispute

The prosecution fits Riverside County's standing as the second most aggressive in the state for seeking the death penalty, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which advocates for lifetime prison sentences rather than execution.

Riverside County issued 28 death sentences in the past decade, ranking only behind Los Angeles County in the state. Riverside County also ranked second per capita.

A report by the ACLU shows a death penalty trial costs $1.1 million more than a regular trial, said Natasha Minsker, death penalty policy director for the ACLU.

"It's unusual in a case to bring someone already sentenced to death at the enormous expense to be retried for another death sentence," Minsker said.

Anthony's mother said her family and the community of Beaumont have paid taxes for purposes like Duncan's trial.

"The time is now to ask the government to use our money to put Joseph Duncan on trial for Tony's kidnapping and murder," Gonzales wrote.

"How much is a person's life worth? How do we as a society say that it is too expensive to give justice to a 10-year-old boy that was kidnapped at knifepoint and dumped like garbage? Do we dare put a price tag on justice? My son's life was worth every cent that is being spent on prosecuting the monster that took his life!!!" she wrote.



Here is another case that just makes me want to tear my hair out.  Why was this guy ever released from prison in the first place?  Sex offenders, particularly pedophiles, are not capable of changing their sexual preferences.  Pedophiles are hardwired to be sexually aroused by children, if they are caught once they go to prison and are targets for rape and abuse themselves.  That part doesn't really bother me, except for the fact that when they get out and they select another child to victimize, this post-prison victim is on borrowed time; because there is no way a pedophile wants to risk going back to prison.  The child is a victim, and a witness, and an obstacle to freedom.  The chances that the child will be killed rise exponentially when a formerly incarcerated pedophile commences a rape.

Our sexual predator laws must change.  Releasing a child sex predator into society is like sending a suicide bomber into a daycare center - tragedy is simply unavoidable.  The ones who don't kill are in some instances creating future predators.  Imagine this:  The average number of boys the average pedophile molests over his lifetime is about 230, girls are much lower at 20 victims through a pedophiles life-cycle.  230 boys per pedophile - how many of those will go on to become pedophiles themselves?  For a conservative estimate of how that number plays out, multiply it by the number of registered sex offenders in your zip code, then multiply it again at 10% - that number may very well represent how many child victims will ultimately progress into the criminal justice system themselves. Scary stuff.  Some reports state that over 50% of incarcerated women are victims of childhood sex abuse.  This problem is at epidemic proportions, and crosses every cultural and economic category in our society.

JED III is the worst of the worst, it is incomprehensible to me that anyone could feel his life is worth sustaining on any basis.  How does keeping him fed and watered enhance our society?  How can anyone claim moral high ground through defending the rights of a man who stalked, terrorized, murdered, raped, forced incestuous acts between children, and then filmed it?  He didn't have to kill that family, he wanted to.  He watched the children for days, and as cunning as he is I just don't believe that he couldn't have created an opportunity to kidnap them without killing the family.  He got off on it.

Shasta Groenig had a couple of strikes against her to start with.  Her custodial parent was a substance abuser, they were economically disadvantaged and she didn't have regular contact with her father (not judging, just stating facts).  Now she's also a rape survivor who witnessed at least one murder, and she has no anonymity.  One innocent, brave and beautiful little girl who now lives with the reality that the bogeyman really might be in the closet, monsters do live under the bed and sometimes there is evil so great even your mom and dad can't protect you.  It's our JOB as society to protect the weak and vulnerable, it's our JOB to hold Shasta and all the little kids who suffered and lived, and suffered in died, in our arms and vanquish the monsters so that those kids can grow up empowered and know how to someday protect their children.

No one is comforted and secure until the monsters are dead - in the most concrete sense.  Warehousing them in prisons where they hold court and manipulate the media is absurd.  I think of Shasta getting ready to go to school in the morning, having breakfast while watching television - and she looks up and sees the face that hovered over her scared face and tiny ravaged body for six weeks.  The face that shot her big brother, and told her to smile for the camera while she was forced to perform unspeakable acts she couldn't have possibly understood.  And in the back of her mind, as long as that monster lives; he lives in her too.  How is that right, or just, or morally acceptable?

Committing a murder is a function of free will.  There is no mental illness that directly causes people to rape, kill or harm others.  Death row inmates are not good people who unwittingly commit bad acts; they are bad people who deliberately commit atrocities.

Granny B

BlueDog, another great post!
" Closure? Closure is a misused word in the English language.  There is no such thing as closure for the family of a murder victim.  There will never be any closure for the death of our loved ones until we are dead ourselves.  The families have a lifetime sentence of anguish and sadness." 
Susan Levy

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