A condemned child killer was today granted his request to be appointed a lawyer following a year of representing himself against charges stemming from the kidnap-murder of a 10-year-old Beaumont boy.
Joseph Edward Duncan III faces first-degree murder and other charges stemming from the April 1997 abduction and slaying of Anthony Martinez, who was snatched from an alley in Beaumont by a knife-wielding assailant and found dead weeks later in the Coachella Valley.
Duncan, who has already been sentenced to death for the slaying of a boy in Idaho, could receive another death sentence if convicted in the Riverside County case.
At Duncan’s request, Riverside County Superior Court Judge David Downing appointed Deputy Public Defender Gail O’Rane of the Capital Defense Team in Riverside to represent the 47-year-old defendant.
Duncan, who began representing himself in September 2009, started off the hearing by asking the judge if he had received a letter sent last week.
“The letter explains that I would like to request an attorney from the public defender’s office,” Duncan said.
Downing said he had not received the letter, but granted Duncan’s request anyway.
Supervising Deputy District Attorney Otis Sterling did not object.
Duncan, who has not cooperated with his court-appointed attorneys in the past, spoke with his new lawyer several times during the hearing.
Outside the courtroom, O’Rane said Duncan seemed “rather pleasant,” and that she planned to talk to him this morning at the Indio Jail. She said she did not know why Duncan had changed his mind about representing himself.
O’Rane questioned whether they would be ready to go to trial within the next year.
“I’m not sure how realistic that is at this point, given all the discovery that we have and all the discovery that we don’t have,” she said.
Sterling said he hopes that the trial can go forward on schedule.
“The hope is that because he has a lawyer who understands the process, who has access to some things that he did not have, then that will make it go sooner,” the prosecutor said.
While representing himself, Duncan worked with two court-appointed private investigators. The judge also allocated funds to allow Duncan to have access to a laptop computer to view nearly 30,000 pages of evidence.
Duncan has indicated he does not deny the allegations against him, but cannot plead guilty because of a California law that stipulates a defendant must be represented by an attorney and have that lawyer’s consent to enter a guilty plea in a potential death penalty case.
O’Rane said it was too early for her to say whether she would allow Duncan to plead guilty.
In Idaho, Duncan was sentenced to death in federal court for the kidnapping, molestation and murder of a 9-year-old boy. He was linked to the Riverside County case during questioning in Idaho.