Judge: Duncan's Competency Hearing to Remain Open

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Joseph Duncan is back in a Boise federal courtroom, participating in a mental competency hearing.
  • Joseph Duncan is back in a Boise federal courtroom, participating in a mental competency hearing.

Following two days of arguments, a federal judge ruled today that the courtroom remain open for the mental competency hearing currently under way for convicted child murderer Joseph Duncan.

Duncan is back in Idaho, participating in the hearing in connection with his 2005 kidnapping and torture of two Idaho children before murdering one of the children.

Duncan's attorneys argue that their client wasn't mentally competent during his trial and successfully had Ducan's three death penalty sentences overturned. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in July 2011 that Duncan should have been given a competency hearing before he was allowed to waive his appeal.

In preparation for the hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Edward Lodge has approved the defense's request to use an expert in the diagnosis of mental disorders. Duncan's defense is expected to call Dr. Michael First, an expert in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a text medical professionals regularly use to diagnose mental illness.

But federal prosecutors are hoping to call another expert, Dr. Ronald Roesch, the director of the Mental Health, Law and Policy Institute at Simon Fraser University, who examined Duncan earlier this year.

Duncan's competency hearing will focus only on the crimes he committed against the Idaho children, though Duncan has now been convicted of five different murders in three states.

Today, Lodge rejected arguments from Duncan's attorneys that claimed Duncan's former lawyers might scare off current or future clients if their testimony during the competency hearing became public.

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