Community sparks new laws in wake of Duncan case - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Community sparks new laws in wake of Duncan case

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - More than three years ago unthinkable crimes shattered the sense of security in one North Idaho community.  Now confessed child killer Joseph Duncan awaits the death penalty. 

After Duncan's arrest that community initiated a legislative movement to create a safer place as they tried to move forward.


- To find out about the death penalty and how it's used in the United States as well as other information related to the justice system: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/

"It's really worn on a lot of people physically and emotionally. It was just a tough, tough case from the first day," said Kootenai County Sheriff's Captain Ben Wolfinger.

The gruesome murders, the search that followed and the bittersweet moment when Shasta Groene was found still weigh heavily on the Captain's mind.

The same events left a hole right in the heart of Kootenai County.

"I think the community lost a lot of its innocence. People were more cautious, more fearful, more aware too."

The heightened awareness the captain speaks of intensified when people learned that just one man, convicted rapist Joseph Duncan, acted alone.

That's when local and state lawmakers re-examined sex offender legislation in Idaho and implemented a prevention plan.

In the last three legislative sessions lawmakers have implemented or amended 15 different bills pertaining to sex offenders.

The legislation changes resulted in harsher punishments, including:

  • House Bill 533: Amended to provide for a death sentence if murder is committed in connection with certain sexual crimes.
  • Senate Bill 1301: Established a mandatory minimum life-sentence for repeat offenses by violent sexual predators.
  • Senate Bill 1312: Extended prison sentences for crimes like sexual exploitation of a child, from 15 years to 30 years.

Some new laws also put tighter parameters on registered sex offenders, including:

  • Senate Bill 1312: Requires sex offenders to register within 2 days of moving instead of 10, requires those deemed violent sexual predators to re-register every 3 months instead of annually, and mandates home visits from local law enforcement every six months.
  • House Bill 381: Requires violent sexual predators on parole to wear electronic monitoring devices.

Wolfinger acknowledges the impact of the new laws saying, "I think the changes have been very positive. We've gotten a better handle on monitoring violent sexual predators."

But the laws' impacts have been two-fold, also providing comfort to a community still trying to heal.

Captain Wolfinger says the laws will continue to change and admits there's always room to re-evaluate and make new laws. Nonetheless, he's hopeful now that Duncan's trial is over, the community can finally lay this horrible tragedy to rest.

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