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Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

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In our Explainer series, Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines - like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine - so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. Read our updated explainer here.
To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

Idaho: Northwest killer denied death sentence appeal

Joseph Edward Duncan III
Joseph Edward Duncan III
The U.S. Supreme Court has denied hearing an appeal of a man who was sentenced to death for kidnapping, torturing and killing a young northern Idaho boy after killing several of members of his family.

U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson announced Wednesday that the high court had made their decision earlier this week.

Joseph Edward Duncan III faces the death penalty for the 2005 murder of 9-year-old Dylan Groene. 

He also faces several life sentences for the murder of 3 family members and the kidnapping of his then-8-year-old sister.

10-year-old Anthony Marinez’s murder had gone unsolved until Duncan confessed after he was arrested at a Denny’s in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in July 2005, with 8-year-old Shasta Groene, six weeks after he kidnapped the girl and her brother Dylan. He had killed their mother, her boyfriend and her 13-year-old son.

Dylan’s remains were found at a remote campsite in the Lolo National Forest in Montana. Duncan told investigators he had an “epiphany” that stopped him from killing Shasta; that statement has been a focus of the mental competency proceedings.

Though he has never been charged, Duncan also has confessed to killing two girls in Seattle in 1996, just after he was released from prison after raping a boy at gunpoint when he was 17.

He was facing child molestation charges in Minnesota when he abandoned his apartment in Fargo, N.D, in May 2005, where he studied computer science at North Dakota State University.

At the time, Duncan represented himself at his sentencing hearing but later waived his right to appeal. 

He has since changed his mind and his defense attorneys say he wasn't mentally competent to waive his rights.

The high court's decision affirms U.S. District Court Judge Edward Lodge's 2013 finding that Duncan was competent to waive his appeal.

No execution date has been set, and Duncan's attorneys may still seek other post-conviction relief.

Source: Associated Press, March 3, 2016

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