Judge: Prosecutors' expert may interview child killer

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BOISE — A federal judge says prosecutors can have their own psychologist interview a convicted child killer as they fight to prove he was competent when he waived his right to appeal his death sentence.

But U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge ruled last week he won’t necessarily let them present the expert’s findings in court — that will be decided.

Joseph Edward Duncan III was sentenced to death in 2008 after admitting he kidnapped and tortured two northern Idaho children before killing one. He gave up his appeals, but his former attorneys fought the sentence on his behalf, and last year the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Lodge to hold a retroactive competency hearing.

During his 2008 sentencing hearing, federal prosecutors said Duncan snatched Dylan Groene and his 8-year-old sister, Shasta, from their home on a spring day in 2005 after killing their older brother, mother and mother’s fiance. Duncan kept the children at a remote Montana campsite for weeks before killing Dylan and returning with Dylan’s sister to Coeur d’Alene, where he was arrested.

After Duncan was given three death sentences in Idaho’s federal court for Dylan’s murder and other federal crimes, prosecutors in Kootenai County opted not to seek the death penalty for the murders of Slade and Brenda Groene and Mark McKenzie. A state court judge sentenced him to life in prison.

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