Washington state

Lawyers say Duncan case driving up bail costs

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - Some northern Idaho defense attorneys say judges in the region have begun boosting bail amounts since Joseph Edward Duncan III killed a Coeur d'Alene family, fearing they could be held liable if a person accused of a crime gets out of jail too easily and runs into further trouble with the law.

Defense attorney Tim Gresback has begun calling it "the Duncan effect," after the 43-year-old killer who last month pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder in a plea deal with Kootenai County prosecutors.

About 70 percent of people awaiting trial in Kootenai County are in jail, at least in part because they can't post bond. Gresback and attorney Jim Siebe said higher bails sometimes have unnecessary negative effects: The accused sometimes lose their jobs and see relationships with loved ones unravel.

Before Duncan, a convicted sex offender, slaughtered members of the Groene family and Mark McKenzie on May 16, 2005, he'd been let out of jail in Minnesota by a judge who had set Duncan's bail at $15,000 in a child molestation case. Relatives of Duncan's Idaho victims have since sued the judge, saying the bail was set too low given Duncan's potential risk as a repeat offender.

Some Idaho judges counter that neither politics nor the heinous nature of Duncan's crimes, which include beating his victims to death with a hammer, have played a role in how they set bail.

Rather, inflation is one factor conspiring to increase bail amounts, as is the phenomenon of prosecutors asking for more money as security to ensure those accused of crimes, should they be released before their trials, meet their court dates.