Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Joseph Edward Duncan III

Duncan Makes Another Deal

According to a press release issued by the City of Beaumont, Calif., the 1997 case of Anthony Martinez was officially closed after a deal was worked out between Duncan's lawyers and Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach.

Paul Zellerbach
Paul Zellerbach

"Mr. Duncan's attorneys indicated that their client is willing to plead guilty to all charges and accept a sentence of life without the possibility of parole, and to waive his appellate rights in the state of California," Zellerbach said.

Zellerbach accepted the deal at the request of Anthony's family. As a result, Duncan appeared in an Indio courtroom on Tuesday, March 15, 2011, and pleaded guilty to the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Anthony Martinez in exchange for the life in prison without the possibility of parole terms.

"The district attorney agreed to a sentence of life without the possibility of parole," a Riverside County District Attorney's office told the Los Angeles Times. An additional possible death sentence had been on the table, and Zellerbach said that he struggled with his decision to accept the plea agreement.

"I want to make something perfectly clear," Zellerbach said of the deal. "Having been a prosecutor for over 22 years, having been a superior court judge for almost 11 years, I have never seen a person in my professional career who is more deserving of the death penalty than Joseph Duncan. He deserves the death penalty for the murder of Anthony Martinez."

"We are relieved that Anthony's family and the entire community, as well as those who were involved in the search for Anthony, can finally find closure in knowing that the person responsible for the kidnapping and murder of a young, innocent child will face justice and never have the opportunity to commit another brutal crime," Beaumont Police Chief Frank Coe said.

"I have waited almost fourteen years for the day that the killer of Anthony Martinez would face justice and today is that day," Mitch White said after Duncan's guilty plea was made and accepted. "The case is now closed and I hope that those that have been so deeply affected by this tragedy can finally have the peace they deserve. Today's proceedings will ensure that Joseph Duncan will never see the light of day again. I wish the best for [Anthony's family], and it is my sincere hope that they get the closure that they deserve."

Superior Court Judge David B. Downing said he agreed with Zellerbach's decision to make the deal with Duncan.

"There wasn't much sense, practically speaking, to go through with a trial here," Downing said. He added that death penalty cases "are much faster in Idaho" and that there wasn't much point in having such proceedings for Duncan in California.


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