A Plea Deal for Duncan?


Attorneys for condemned child killer Joseph Edward Duncan III submitted a plea deal to prosecutors Tuesday that would lift his death sentence for killing a Beaumont boy in 1997.

Duncan, 47, already sentenced to death for the slaying of an Idaho boy and three other members of his family, is facing capital punishment if convicted of kidnapping and murdering 10-year-old Anthony Martinez.

The defense offer, however, indicated Duncan was willing to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence without the possibility of parole, Deputy District Attorney Otis Sterling told City News Service.

One of Duncan’s two court- appointed attorneys, Scott O’Meara, confirmed that an offer was presented, but declined to elaborate.

Duncan, who is also facing nine life sentences for murders and other felonies, is scheduled to be in court at the Larson Justice Center on March 7.

That’s when the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office is expected to announce a decision about the plea deal.

Sterling said he planned to meet with District Attorney Paul Zellerbach to discuss the deal.

“We need to decide if we’re willing to allow him to (plead),” Sterling said. “I will present that to the DA, who will make that decision. It is Zellerbach’s call.”

Should the prosecution continue seeking the death penalty, Duncan would be tried between April 5 and April 15 unless he asks for a delay.

Duncan, when representing himself last year, did not deny the allegations against him, but was not allowed to plead guilty, because state law requires a defendant in such cases to have a lawyer first.

“While he was self-represented that wasn’t a possibility,” Sterling said. “He recently has gotten lawyers, and it’s at a point where they extended an offer to us. So we’ll talk about it and see what we want to do.”

The serial killer has a troubled history with lawyers, having previously fired court-appointed lawyers.

A judge found him competent to stand trial and represent himself in 2009.

Duncan was tied to the Coachella Valley slaying when Anthony’s name surfaced during questioning in Idaho in another unrelated crime.

Partial fingerprints found at the scene where Anthony’s body was discovered matched Duncan, authorities have said.

Duncan allegedly left a fingerprint on the duct tape used to bind Anthony, who was abducted by a stranger as he played with friends in an alley behind his family’s apartment on April 4, 1997.

The child’s nude body was found by a Bureau of Land Management ranger on April 19, 1997, on Berdoo Canyon Road in Indio — some 90 miles east of where he was snatched — south of Joshua Tree National Monument.

The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office charged Duncan with Anthony’s murder in 2007.

Duncan was sentenced to death in August 2008 by a federal judge in Boise, Idaho, for murdering 9-year-old Dylan Groene.

Duncan kidnapped the boy and his 8-year-old sister in May 2005, then tortured and sexually abused both of them over the course of several weeks before shooting Dylan in the head while his sister watched.

Duncan also killed the children’s brother and mother, and the mother’s fiance.

He was arrested after a waitress at a Denny’s restaurant recognized him and the kidnapped younger sister.

Law enforcement agencies nationwide began investigating whether the drifter and high school dropout, whose first sex offense was committed when he was 12, could be tied to other cases.

http://www.mydesert.com/article/20110223/NEWS0802/102230302/Lawyers-condemned-child-killer-Joseph-Edward-Duncan-III-submit-plea-deal-court?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|Frontpage

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