INDIO, Calif. (KTLA) -- A federal appeals court has thrown out the death sentence for convicted child killer Joseph Edward Duncan III in the murders of four family members in Idaho.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the sentence, ruling he should have been given a competency hearing before he was allowed to waive his right to appeal.
In handing down the ruling Monday, the appellate court ordered U.S. District Court Judge Edward Lodge to hold a retrospective competency hearing for Duncan.
In 2005, a federal judge sentenced Duncan to three death sentences, on top of nine life terms for the murder of four members of a family and kidnapping of two children in Idaho.
He was later extradited to Riverside County in January 2009 to face charges in the murder of 10-year-old Anthony Martinez.
He pleaded guilty last year in exchange for two life sentences for the murder of the Beaumont boy, who was abducted, tortured and killed in 1997.
Duncan is accused of kidnapping Anthony as he played with his brother near their home.
Anthony's nude and battered body was found about two weeks later in a remote area south of Joshua Tree National Monument in Indio.
As part of the plea deal, Duncan also pleaded guilty to six special circumstances, including kidnapping, molestation and torture.
In the Idaho case, Duncan was convicted of kidnapped Dylan Groene and his then-8-year-old sister, Shasta, after murdering their older brother, their mother and her fiance in the Coeur d'Alene area.
The two young children were taken deep into the Lolo National Forest, where they endured weeks of horrendous abuse at Duncan's hands.
Duncan ultimately shot the boy point-blank in the head while his sister watched.
He was arrested after returning to Coeur d'Alene, where a waitress recognized Shasta as the two ate at a Denny's restaurant.
Prosecutors showed jurors videos Duncan made in which he molested, tortured and hanged Dylan Groene until the boy was unconscious and nearly dead.
Duncan, a convicted pedophile, is originally from Tacoma, Wash.
He has a long string of arrests and convictions for crimes ranging from car theft to rape and molestation.
He is also suspected in the slayings of two half-sisters from Seattle in 1996.
Death Sentence Overturned for Child Killer, Joseph Edward Duncan
In 2005, Joseph Edward Duncan was convicted of murdering a couple and two children in Idaho.
VIDEO: Watch Dave Mecham's Report
Joseph Edward Duncan
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.
Los Angeles Times welcomes civil dialogue about our stories; you must register with the site to participate. We filter comments for language and adherence to our Terms of Service, but not for factual accuracy. By commenting, you agree to these legal terms. Please flag inappropriate comments.
Having technical problems? Check here for guidance.