As I was thinking about the sentencing trial for serial killer Joseph Edward Duncan III, which began earlier this week, I couldn’t help but wonder why I was avoiding the subject in this space. After all, I’ve been blogging about Duncan since he was arrested, little Shasta Groene in tow, on July 2, 2005. I was one of the first people in the blogosphere or the msm to catch on to the scope of Duncan’s Web presence. Others ended up doing a better job of finding it all and laying it out there, but I was on top of the story from the beginning.
So, you’d think I’d be accustomed to writing about the hideous details of Duncan’s crimes. I’m not. In a way, that’s good — it means I’m not as jaded as I thought I was, and am still capable of feeling shock and disgust; writing true crime stories hasn’t left me numb. But from a crime blogger’s perspective, it isn’t that good, because it means I still have to make myself cover some stories, even if I fear they may one day filter down into my nightmares.
I finally figured out a way to approach the subject of Duncan today — list some reasons I think he should be executed.
Mind you, when I began blogging about crime in late 2004, I was ardently pro-death penalty. My attitude was basically this: set up electric bleachers and get rid of one whole cell block, if needed.
In the 3 and 3/4 years since I started this endeavor in earnest, I’ve actually become more liberal on the subject. I cannot say that I’m anti-death penalty yet, but I can say I’m getting there. There are many reasons, a few of them personal and spiritual, but one big reason has to do with my understanding of the types of personalities who commit crimes heinous enough to put them on death row. For many of them, spending their lives behind bars really is a worse punishment than death. The very nature of the psychopathic criminal is such that he or she cannot abide one thing, almost above all else — they can’t stand the loss of liberty. Psychopaths are laws unto themselves, and the most important thing in the world to them is whatever they want at any given moment. The confinement of prison, the hard rules, the enforced discipline; all these things are anathema to the typical psychopath. Life in prison is one of the only effective punishments you can really give someone who has no conscience, no remorse, no feelings for anyone but themselves.
But here in the South, we have a joke-y saying. Call it gallows humor, if you want. Some folks, well — they just need killin’.
It’s hard to review even a short list of Duncan’s crimes and not conclude that he’s one monster who really, in the end, just needs killin’. Here’s what I’m getting at:
1. Duncan plotted his crimes against the Groene family on a spreadsheet. He made a list of pros and cons. When he finally decided to put his “bohemian underground” into effect, he went on a big shopping trip at Wal-Mart. Items purchased included night-vision goggles. He was a hunter, preparing for the kill.
2. Shortly after Duncan abducted Dylan and Shasta Groene, he pointedly told the children that he’d just killed their mother, brother, and mother’s boyfriend.
3. Duncan had Dylan and Shasta in the Montana woods for weeks, torturing and raping them both. More than a month into the ordeal, he took Dylan to a cabin, where he videotaped himself performing sexually sadistic acts on the little boy.
4. In videos shown in court this week, Duncan taunted Dylan and Shasta. At one point he narrated images of a log burning on a campfire, saying “All of our wishes being burned […] My wishes for forgiveness, your wishes for…” The children responded, talking about going home and other, more prosaic things. Duncan then cut them short. He said, “Lots of luck, people. At least my wish is something I might get.”
5. Duncan made it a point to show Shasta Groene the video he made of Dylan’s torture.
6. A few days later after the torture session in the cabin, Shasta heard gunfire. She turned to see her brother clutching his belly. As she watched, Duncan went over to the boy and shot him in the head — or he tried. The gun misfired the first time. So Duncan reloaded, fired once more. According to Shasta, her brother’s head “exploded.”
7. Duncan is incapable of remorse. He feels none. This is a man who wrote (supposedly as a joke) that “Sociopaths rock!” He also wrote a little about remorse in a blog published by proxy after Duncan was already in jail:
I feel remorse for every time I rode my bike and didn’t think about people who couldn’t walk. I feel remorse for all the times I went to work but did nothing to help a “third world country.” As a matter of fact, I feel remorse for all the times I forgot about God and thought only about myself! So, yes, I do feel remorse. Don’t you?
Basically, remorse about crimes he committed didn’t enter into the picture.
8. In the same vein — if his own words are any indication, Duncan takes no real responsibility for his crimes. In a letter found in Duncan’s coat pocket after his arrest, Duncan wrote the following to his mother: “I have once again become a medium of violence in the world…” Note the phrasing — Duncan didn’t commit the violence; he was just a “a medium of” the violence.
Jet Duncan feels no remorse, and he feels no sense of responsibility for his actions. To him, society will always be to blame for what he has done to others. The death penalty is what he probably expects to receive, for it would fulfill his delusion that society created the monster he is today. That point-of-view is deeply embedded in Duncan’s very being — just read his original blog. It’s all there, in just about every other post he wrote. So if the chair or needle is what Duncan expects, I say this: I hope the jury in Idaho fulfills his every expectation. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy. [KOMO.com, the Seattle Times.]