Ninth Circuit: Joseph Duncan 'Had Ability to Make Rational Choices' During Murder Trial


The spine-chilling name Joseph Duncan is back in the news.

Duncan was convicted of the 2005 kidnapping, sexual abuse, torture and murder of a 9-year-old Idaho boy and his 8-year-old sister, and of the boy's murder. Since then, Duncan has been in and out of numerous courtrooms as his attorneys argue his competency.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a decision March 27 that could edge Duncan closer to execution. Earlier this month, Duncan's attorneys stood before the 9th Circuit in California arguing for an appeal, saying their client was incompetent when he represented himself in his Idaho trial. Judges turned down that appeal.

Duncan "had the ability to make rational choices with respect to his criminal proceeding," wrote the court. "Because the defendant was competent in November 2008, the notice of appeal that standby counsel filed on November 17, 2008 was a nullity. At that time, the defendant had validly and affirmatively waived his right to file an appeal. His decision to withdraw that waiver, which he made more than two years later, came too late."

Duncan's lawyers can take their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the meantime, Duncan awaits execution at a federal prison in Indiana.