BOISE, Idaho — A forensic psychologist who examined convicted murderer Joseph Duncan four years ago said Duncan scored high on a test measuring paranoia, but was still legally competent to serve as his own attorney when he waived his right to appeal his death sentence.
Dr. Robert Engle testified Wednesday as part of a retrospective competency hearing ordered by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The hearing is intended to determine whether Duncan, who as a boy lived in the Tacoma area, was mentally competent when he waived his right to appeal his death sentence for the kidnapping and torture of two northern Idaho children and the murder of one of them.
Engle was appointed in 2008 by U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge to determine if Duncan’s mental state should prevent him from representing himself in his federal death sentence hearing. At the time, Engle determined Duncan didn’t have any mental defect or disease that would cause him to be legally incompetent.
Duncan snatched 9-year-old Dylan Groene and Dylan’s younger sister from their Wolf Lodge, Idaho home after killing several of their family members in 2005. He kept the children at a remote Montana campsite for weeks before he shot Dylan and returned with Dylan’s sister to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where he was arrested.
Engle said he interviewed Duncan three times, administered several tests and asked Duncan about his past as part of his examination. The results showed Duncan was intelligent, that he didn’t appear to be faking his test results, and that he wasn’t delusional.
“He is not suffering from a mental defect or disease sufficient to impair his ability to choose to represent himself,” Engle said Wednesday.
Some of the test results were inconsistent with Engle’s own observations of Duncan — a fact Duncan’s defense attorney Michael Burt focused on during his cross examination.