Jurors cringed, cried and some desperately looked away as they were shown a series of deeply disturbing and graphic videos taken by a convicted child killer as he tortured, sexually abused and nearly killed a 9-year-old boy.
Joseph Edward Duncan III, acting as his own attorney, had argued against playing the videos, saying it would turn jurors "into my victims" as they decide whether he should be executed.
Duncan kidnapped the boy, Dylan Groene, and his sister, Shasta, in May 2005 after murdering their older brother, their mother and her fiance in the Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, area. The two young children were taken deep into the Lolo National Forest, where they endured weeks of horrendous abuse at Duncan's hands.
Duncan ultimately shot the boy point-blank in the head while his sister, then 8, watched. He was arrested after returning to Coeur d'Alene, where a waitress recognized Shasta as the two ate at a Denny's restaurant.
The videos and photos taken at the cabin show Duncan forcing the boy to perform a sex act, whipping him with a belt and hanging him with a wire noose until the boy passed out.
"The devil is here, boy, the devil himself. The demon couldn't do what the devil sent him to do so the devil came himself," Duncan yells in one video. "The devil likes to watch children suffer and cry."
Duncan covered his face as parts of the video were shown, and jurors frequently shot him looks. Two of Duncan's standby attorneys also avoided looking at the screen.
Duncan, a convicted pedophile originally from Tacoma, Washington, has pleaded guilty to federal and state counts including murder. The federal jury is considering the death penalty on charges related to the kidnappings and Dylan's murder, but he also could face execution on state counts in the other three killings.
Duncan, who is representing himself in federal court, objected to showing the videos, saying that would "basically be turning the jury into my victims so I will be tried not by a jury of peers but by a jury of victims."
Judge Edward Lodge overruled Duncan's objection, as well as a last-minute request from Steven Groene, Shasta and Dylan's father, to close the courtroom to everyone but essential court personnel and one news media representative. He did prevail upon U.S. marshals guarding the courtroom to cover the windows on the door.
In the video, after releasing Dylan from the noose, Duncan promised to take him to the hospital so his injured neck could be treated. He also promised to tell hospital staffers where to find Shasta, who had been left back at the campground, so they could come find her. He kept neither promise.
After that, Duncan offered to let Dylan watch the video of his "death," then wandered away from the camera where he could be heard singing part of the Lord's Prayer.
Steven Groene left the courtroom just before the video was played. Before he did he approached some spectators, angrily motioning them out and making an obscene gesture when they stayed put. At one point he threatened to make a citizen's arrest of anyone watching, saying viewing child pornography is a crime.
Once the video had been shown and he returned to the courtroom, Groene confronted some of those who had stayed, asking bitterly if they enjoyed it.
The prosecution's last witness was a man who testified that Duncan had raped him at gunpoint in 1980, when the man was just 14 years old. Parts of the story seemed similar to some of Duncan's videotaped abuse of Dylan.
The Associated Press' policy generally does not identify victims of sexual assault. In Shasta and Dylan Groene's cases, however, the search for the children was so heavily publicized that their names are widely known.
After the prosecution rested, Duncan told the court he wanted to testify, but when took the witness stand he said he only wanted to answer any questions that government lawyers might have. They were unable to cross-examine him, however, because court rules generally prohibit questioning a defendant about anything that wasn't raised in the defendant's direct testimony.
Duncan said he had no other witnesses to call.
Jurors were given instructions Thursday afternoon and are expected to hear closing arguments on Friday morning before they begin deliberations, Lodge said.
If the jury finds Duncan is ineligible for the death penalty, the hearing will be over and he will be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
If the panel finds him eligible for capital punishment, the hearing will enter a second phase in which the government will try to convince the jury that Duncan should be executed while he will be able to present evidence to try to convince the jury that his life should be spared.
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