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Two More Life Sentences for a Murderer

A man already on federal death row for a horrific crime in Idaho and Montana will be sentenced to two life-without-parole terms for the murder of another child in California, AP reports.

[Joseph Edward] Duncan was sentenced to death in 2008 for the kidnapping, torture and murder of 9-year old Dylan Groene of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. He abducted the boy and his 8-year-old sister Shasta after killing their older brother, mother and her fiance with a hammer at the family's home in 2005.

He then took the children to a remote western Montana campsite where he raped, tortured and threatened them before shooting Dylan in the head and burning his body.
Oral argument in the federal case was held in the Ninth Circuit on January 12, Duncan v. United States, No. 08-99031. 

Meanwhile, back in California,
Duncan was charged with killing and torturing 10-year-old Anthony Martinez, who was abducted in 1997 as he played with his brother near their Beaumont home. Martinez's nude and battered body was found two weeks later in the desert east of Los Angeles.
He pleaded guilty today and will receive two life terms, doubled due to his prior sexual assault conviction.

Duncan previously had been sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexually assaulting a 14-year old boy in Tacoma, Wash., in 1980. He was paroled in 1994 but was returned to prison in 1997 after breaking the conditions. He was released in 2000 and lived in Fargo, N.D., before his arrest in the grisly Idaho murders.

Riverside authorities spent years searching for a suspect in Martinez's killing. They pursued more than 15,000 leads and were only able to link Duncan to the crime after his Idaho arrest.
Little Anthony was tortured and murdered only because Duncan had been paroled.

The California sentence is merely backup to the federal sentence, of course.


This grotesque story comes hard on the heels of the story of the Massacusetts Parole Board releasing a life-long, violent criminal, only to have him murder a policeman in the course of a robbery.

At some point, like now, we need a statute to hold parole board members accountable for this sort of thing. I don't expect anyone to have a crystal ball, and I understand that if we are to have parole -- a question for another day -- we're going to have some recidivism.

That said, when the parole board's decision is objectively unreasonable and has horrific results, those who rendered it should be made to pay a price. The problem we're having now is that the price is borne by others, like children who are subject to prolonged torture and then murdered.

There is no excuse for Duncan ever to have been free. For that matter, there is no excuse for his not having been executed well before now.

What have we come to when we tolerate a creature like this in our midst, as long as he poses no threat to the ADULTS who let him loose?

I think Virginia's truth-in-sentencing law strikes a fair balance. An inmate has to serve 85% of his or her sentence before even becoming eligible for parole.

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