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Joseph Duncan's Legacy?

Doug Nadvornick
08/28/2008

Legacies are tricky things. Ask Idaho Senator Larry Craig. He may be remembered more for a few minutes in a Minneapolis airport bathroom than for his long Congressional career. What about Joseph Duncan's legacy? He has been condemned to death by a Boise jury. He will certainly be remembered most for his crimes. But correspondent Doug Nadvornick reports Duncan leaves a secondary legacy as well: tougher laws to regulate sex offenders.

TRANSCRIPT

NADVORNICK: "What would you say is Joseph Duncan's legacy in the state of Idaho?"

CLARK: "None. He's a dirtbag. I don't think he's got a legacy. And we shouldn't classify him that way."

IT'S HUMAN NATURE NOT TO WANT TO GIVE JOSEPH DUNCAN CREDIT FOR ANYTHING. AND IDAHO STATE REPRESENTATIVE JIM CLARK DOESN'T. AFTER ALL, DUNCAN KILLED THREE PEOPLE IN A RURAL HOME EAST OF COEUR D'ALENE IN 2005. HE KIDNAPPED TWO CHILDREN, DYLAN AND SHASTA GROENE, FROM THAT HOME AND TOOK THEM TO A CAMPGROUND IN WESTERN MONTANA. HE SEXUALLY ABUSED BOTH AND KILLED DYLAN. DUNCAN WAS CAPTURED AT A DINER IN COEUR D'ALENE. BUT THERE WAS A PRACTICAL EFFECT OF DUNCAN'S CRIME SPREE. IT MOTIVATED CONGRESS AND STATE LEGISLATURES TO PASS MORE LAWS TO CRACKDOWN ON PEOPLE WHO COMMIT SEX CRIMES.

TEXAS REP. TED POE: "Mr. Speaker, to my left is a photograph of Dylan at the age of nine and his sister Shasta at the age of eight. This is his story."

TEXAS REPRESENTATIVE TED POE MENTIONED THE GROENE CHILDREN AS HE SPOKE ON THE FLOOR OF THE U.S. HOUSE IN SEPTEMBER, 2005, TWO MONTHS AFTER DUNCAN WAS CAPTURED. IN 2006 CONGRESS APPROVED WHAT BECAME THE ADAM WALSH CHILD PROTECTION AND SAFETY ACT. WALSH WAS A SIX–YEAR–OLD BOY WHO WAS KIDNAPPED IN A FLORIDA DEPARTMENT STORE IN 1981 AND MURDERED. AMONG OTHER THINGS, JIM CLARK SAYS THE LAW REQUIRES SEX OFFENDERS TO REGISTER WITH AUTHORITIES WHEN THEY CROSS STATE LINES.

CLARK: "Because of Duncan, the idea of a sexual predator moving from North Dakota someplace else, has to register as he goes through each state, even if he goes on vacation. We will now know if they're moving from point A to point C."

THE LAW ALSO REQUIRES STATES TO CLASSIFY OFFENDERS USING A TIERED SYSTEM. WASHINGTON ALREADY HAS THREE TIERS, WITH THE WORST OFFENDERS AT THE TOP. IDAHO HAS A TWO–TIER SYSTEM FOR ADULTS AND ONE TIER FOR JUVENILES. LAWMAKERS MAY CHANGE THAT NEXT YEAR TO MATCH THE FEDERAL GUIDELINES. THAT CHANGE FOLLOWS A FLURRY OF SEX OFFENDER–RELATED LEGISLATION IN IDAHO IN 2006.

VON TAGEN: "I think that what you saw, the large amount of activity that you saw in 2006, was, in a sense, a reaction to Duncan."

IDAHO DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL BILL VON TAGEN SAYS LAWMAKERS PASSED SEVERAL SEX OFFENDER BILLS THAT SESSION. FEW, IF ANY, HAD ANY EFFECT ON THE DUNCAN CASE, BUT VON TAGEN SAYS THEY FILLED HOLES IN THE EXISTING LAWS. ONE REQUIRES SEX OFFENDERS TO CHECK IN MORE OFTEN WITH AUTHORITIES. IT ALSO INCREASES THE PENALTIES FOR THOSE WHO DON'T REGISTER AS OFFENDERS. VON TAGEN SAYS LAWMAKERS ALSO ELIMINATED THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS IN CHILD SEXUAL ASSAULT CASES.

VON TAGEN: "That wasn't a problem in the Duncan case, but this was to say if this were to be a problem, we want to address that."

THE DUNCAN CASE ALSO INFLUENCED LAWMAKERS IN OLYMPIA. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL TODD BOWERS SAYS THEY WERE WORKING ON AN OVERHAUL OF THE STATE'S SEX OFFENDER LAWS.

BOWERS: "But what happened when the Duncan crime broke was it definitely raised that on everyone's priority list."

IN THE END, ARE CHILDREN IN THE NORTHWEST MORE SAFE BECAUSE OF THESE NEW LAWS? IT'S A WORK IN PROGRESS. AUTHORITIES IN WASHINGTON AND IDAHO ARE USING GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEM TECHNOLOGY TO TRACK THE MOVEMENTS OF THE MOST VIOLENT SEXUAL OFFENDERS. IDAHO'S PROGRAM IS ONLY WEEKS OLD. REPRESENTATIVE JIM CLARK SAYS ONLY TWO OF MORE THAN 40 ELIGIBLE OFFENDERS HAVE BEEN FITTED WITH G.P.S. BRACELETS. AND IN WASHINGTON, ONE OFFENDER CUT HIS OFF LAST SPRING AND ESCAPED. HE LATER TURNED HIMSELF IN TO AUTHORITIES IN ARKANSAS.

I'M DOUG NADVORNICK IN COEUR D'ALENE.

© Copyright 2008, Spokane Public Radio

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