BOISE, Idaho A federal jury has declared Joseph Edward Duncan III eligible for the death penalty in the 2005 kidnapping, torture and murder of a 9-year-old Idaho boy.
The unanimous ruling from the jury of eight men and four women followed two hours of deliberation Friday.
The verdict doesn't mean the case is over.
The next step for prosecutors is convincing the jury that Duncan, who admitted bludgeoning three people to death so he could abduct and molest siblings Dylan and Shasta Groene, should be executed for what he did to Dylan. When the hearing resumes next week, Duncan, 45, acting as his own attorney, will have a chance to argue for a life sentence without parole.
The jury's sentencing recommendation is binding on U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge.
Duncan didn't react to the verdict and opted not to have each juror individually polled to double-check their decision. The slain boy's father, Steven Groene, and other family supporters embraced after the verdict but seemed to keep their emotions in check.
The verdict was not surprising after Duncan's closing arguments, in which he told the jurors they didn't yet "have a clue" about the depth of his "heinousness."
Duncan also told the panel that government lawyers helped him victimize the jurors by making them watch and listen to the grotesque evidence that was presented during the last two weeks.
"I should actually thank the government for helping me get my eye for an eye by showing you the evidence that you've seen, the videos," Duncan said during his closing argument Friday.
Homemade videos prosecutors presented this week showed Duncan molesting, torturing and hanging young Dylan Groene until the boy was unconscious and nearly dead. By showing the evidence, the government was "helping me to take away your heart and your innocence," Duncan said. "That's what they have done, and I should thank them but I won't."
Duncan said he wasn't in court because he was caught, but because Shasta Groene the sole survivor of the kidnapping and attack didn't judge him for his actions, prompting him to take her home.
The rampage was the culmination of years of planning, he said, and he originally intended to rape and kill until he was killed.
Duncan abducted Dylan and his then-8-year-old sister Shasta in May 2005 after bludgeoning their older brother, mother and mother's boyfriend. He took the children into the wilderness for several weeks, torturing and sexually abusing them and ultimately shooting Dylan point-blank in the head. Duncan has pleaded guilty in state court to the killings at the house. Those crimes are not at issue in these proceedings.
In December, Duncan pleaded guilty to 10 federal counts in connection with the crimes against Dylan and Shasta. Three of those counts qualified him for the death penalty, the jury found kidnapping resulting in the death of a child, sexual exploitation of a child resulting in death and using a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence resulting in death.
Duncan, formerly from Tacoma, Wash., has a long string of arrests and convictions for crimes ranging from car theft to rape and molestation. He is suspected in the slayings of two half-sisters from Seattle in 1996 and is charged with killing a young boy in Riverside County, Calif., in 1997.