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    Joseph Edward Duncan III - Federal Death Row


    Shasta and Dylan Groene






    Summary of Offense:

    On August 27, 2008, a jury in Idaho returned a unanimous verdict for a death sentence for Duncan after deliberating for three hours. Duncan had pleaded guilty to ten federal charges, including the murder and kidnapping of a young boy, Dylan Groene, age nine, and the kidnapping of Dylan's sister, Shasta, age eight, in May 2005. Duncan insisted on defending himself, and offered no mitigating evidence and no closing argument in the sentencing trial.

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    From Wikipedia:

    Joseph Edward Duncan III (born February 25, 1963) is an American criminal who received national attention after being arrested in connection with the kidnapping of Shasta Groene, age eight, and her brother Dylan, age nine.

    Duncan has a long history as a violent sexual predator, and was clinically diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder in 1980, while in prison for raping a younger boy at knifepoint.

    In 2004, Duncan groped the genitals of a 7-year-old boy. He was arrested in April 2005 in Minnesota. The judge granted bail at $15,000. A businessman in Fargo, Joe Crary, gave Duncan money for bail.[1] While thus freed Duncan jumped bail.

    Idaho police believe Duncan was also involved in the May 2005 murders of Dylan and Shasta's family: Brenda Groene, 40, Slade Groene, 13, and Mark McKenzie, 37. According to Shasta's police interview, an intruder tied her family members up, and then she and her brother were taken into a 2000 Jeep Cherokee.

    A camera in a convenience store, approximately 40 miles outside of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, recorded Shasta wandering the aisles while Duncan read a newspaper. Later on, in the early morning hours of July 2, 2005, Shasta was found in Duncan's custody. The two had entered a Denny's restaurant in Coeur d'Alene. A waitress recognized Shasta from media reports, as well as posters that had been posted around town and in the restaurant. The waitress, Amber Deahn, worked with her manager to delay the suspect and contact local police. Deahn stalled the order until the police arrived and made a positive ID on the stolen rental car, which also displayed stolen Missouri state license plates.

    Police later entered the restaurant and arrested Duncan, removing Shasta to a local hospital for observation and care. The waitress asked Shasta, "Where is your brother?" Shasta replied, "My brother is in heaven."

    Shasta told investigators her mother called her into the living room, from her bedroom where she had been sleeping, and she saw Duncan wearing black gloves and holding a gun. Her captor tied her mother's hands with nylon zip ties, and did the same to her mother's boyfriend and an older brother. Dylan and Shasta were removed from the house and placed inside the stolen rental car. While she waited with her brother, she heard her mother's boyfriend scream out and then saw her injured older brother staggering away from the entrance to the home. Both Shasta and Dylan were removed to other locations, where they were repeatedly raped and molested for six weeks. She said that they drove long distances and had stayed in various campgrounds, while Duncan bragged of having beaten family members to death with a hammer.

    Dylan's remains were found in a remote, woodland area in Montana days after Shasta was rescued. Shasta is now in the custody of her biological father.

    Duncan appeared in court on July 6, 2005 during his arraignment on two counts of first-degree kidnapping. His trial was set to begin on January 17, 2006, but was delayed until April 4, after the district judge granted a request to the defense for more time to prepare for the trial, and then again to October 26, after 1st District Judge Fred Gibler stated that "No one wants to try this case twice, including me," thus granting Duncan's attorneys the six month extension. Duncan may face further charges for failure to appear and skipping bail in Minnesota.

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    November 6, 2007

    BOISE, Idaho - Convicted killer Joseph Edward Duncan III on Monday asked a federal judge to suppress statements he made to detectives and a jail chaplain after his arrest in the summer of 2005 for the kidnapping of two northern Idaho children.

    In a flurry of motions filed in U.S. District Court here, Duncan's legal team also argued that the judge should throw out the death penalty sought by prosecutors and that the federal death penalty should be declared unconstitutional.

    Duncan is scheduled to go on trial in January for the kidnapping of Dylan and Shasta Groene, and the killing of 9-year-old Dylan at a remote campsite in western Montana. Shasta, then 8, was rescued weeks after her abduction, at a Coeur d'Alene restaurant where Duncan was arrested.

    Duncan has already pleaded guilty in Idaho state court to killing members of the Groene family at their Coeur d'Alene-area home in May 2005. Brenda Groene; her fiance, Mark McKenzie, and her 13-year-old son, Slade Groene, were bound and bludgeoned to death with a hammer. Prosecutors alleged he killed the three so he could kidnap the younger children for sex.

    Duncan, a native of Tacoma, Wash., was sentenced to life in prison without parole for kidnapping the three older victims. But the state judge deferred imposing punishment on the murder counts to give federal prosecutors time to pursue their case, which is centered on events in Montana after the children were abducted.

    In the weeks after his arrest, Duncan met several times with Kootenai County sheriff detectives and FBI agents. A motion filed Monday focuses on incriminating statements Duncan made in a July 19 interview with FBI agents seeking fingerprint evidence to use in other missing children cases.

    Defense attorneys contend statements made from that interview should be tossed out because Duncan had previously invoked his right against self-incrimination and expressed the desire to have his attorney present.

    They are also seeking to strike statements Duncan made days after his arrest to jail chaplain Robert Smalley, arguing those remarks are protected under the clergy-penitent privilege.

    "Given that Mr. Duncan was emotionally distraught and seeking to speak confidentially with a chaplain, it was not reasonable for the jail to furnish him with an individual ostensibly holding himself out as such a figure, but who was not actually willing to extend the full scope of the privilege," Duncan's lawyers wrote.

    Similar defense motions were filed in Duncan's state case, and a judge ruled the statements could be used in court. But a plea agreement was reached before the case went to trial.

    Federal prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty, but the defense contends the death penalty should be dismissed because the government's notice with the court was flawed and insufficient. They have also filed briefs arguing that the federal death penalty is unconstitutional.

    Depending on what happens in the federal case, Duncan could still face the death penalty in state court.

    Other briefs filed by the Monday deadline set by the judge call for:

    Dismissing the indictment because the rules used for convening the grand jury are unconstitutional.

    Suppressing evidence, including computer files of child porn, because of illegal searches of Duncan's vehicle and North Dakota apartment.

    Exclude testimony from two government forensic experts hired to study duct tape, hairs and fibers collected from the Montana crime scene.

    Prosecutors allege that Duncan, who spent most of his adult life in prison, held the children captive at a remote campsite for weeks, sexually abusing them and producing child pornography before killing the boy.

    Duncan has also been charged in a California court in the 1997 slaying of 10-year-old Anthony Martinez. Prosecutors there have said they also intend to seek the death penalty. In addition, Duncan is a suspect in two 1996 killings in Washington state.

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    November 30, 2007

    BOISE, Idaho — Joseph Edward Duncan III, who has been charged with kidnapping two north Idaho children in 2005 and killing one of them, is scheduled to enter a guilty plea on Monday in federal court.

    Court documents filed late Friday did not detail exactly which charges Duncan is pleading to. But the penalty phase of his case is due to begin Jan. 28. There was no indication that the government had taken the death penalty off the table; a gag order prevents the attorneys involved from speaking with reporters.

    Duncan has been charged with kidnapping, kidnapping resulting in death and sexual abuse of a minor and related charges in the abduction of Shasta Groene, then 8, and her 9-year-old brother Dylan from their Coeur d'Alene-area home and Dylan's subsequent death in Montana.

    Duncan's federal trial had been scheduled to begin Jan. 22.

    He has already pleaded guilty in Idaho state court to kidnapping and murdering other members of the Groene family at their home in May 2005. Shasta and Dylan's mother, Brenda Groene, her fiance Mark McKenzie and her 13-year-old son, Slade Groene, were bound and bludgeoned to death with a hammer. Prosecutors alleged Duncan killed the three so he could kidnap the younger children for sex.

    Duncan was sentenced to life in prison without parole for kidnapping the three older victims. But the state judge deferred imposing punishment on the murder counts to give federal prosecutors time to pursue their case, which is centered on events in Montana after the children were abducted.

    Depending on what happens in the federal case, Duncan could still face the death penalty in state court.

    Duncan is a Tacoma, Wash., native who spent most of his adult life in Washington state prisons for sexual crimes against children.

    He was on the run from a child molestation charge in Minnesota when he drove past the Groene home on Interstate 90 east of Coeur d'Alene, spotting Shasta and Dylan playing outside. Duncan stalked the Groene family for several days, then entered the home and bound and killed the two adults and the teen, according to court documents.
    Court documents allege Duncan took the two youngest children and drove into the mountains near St. Regis, Mont., where he sexually abused them for weeks before killing Dylan. The boy's body was found in a remote campsite.

    Duncan has been quoted in court documents as saying he was trying to return Shasta to her father when he and the little girl were spotted in a Coeur d'Alene restaurant on the morning of July 2, 2005, about seven weeks after the family was attacked. Late Friday, Duncan declined an Associated Press request for a prison interview.

    Duncan is represented by several lawyers, including federal defender and death-penalty specialist Judy Clarke.

    Clarke, the former director of the Federal Defenders of Eastern Washington and Idaho, has helped keep Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, 1996 Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph and convicted child killer Susan Smith off death row.

    In a telephone conversation with The Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Wash., Shasta's father Steve Groene declined to comment late Friday, citing the gag order. Associated Press phone calls to Groene rang unanswered. Shasta Groene's aunt, Wendy Price, did not immediately return an AP phone call for comment and other family friends were not immediately reachable.

    Duncan has also been charged in a California court in the 1997 slaying of 10-year-old Anthony Martinez in Indio, Calif. Prosecutors there have said they also intend to seek the death penalty, and that the case involved kidnapping, torture and child molestation. In addition, Duncan is a suspect in two 1996 killings in Washington state - that of 9-year-old Carmen Cubias and 11-year-old Sammiejo White.

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    December 4, 2007

    BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A man who murdered the family of two young siblings, then sexually abused the children before killing one of them at a remote Montana campsite, pleaded guilty Monday to federal charges that could lead to his execution.

    Joseph Edward Duncan III did not make a plea deal with prosecutors, and earlier pleaded guilty to state charges. He told the judge he wants to take responsibility for his actions.

    "I will continue to accept that responsibility to the death," he said.

    Duncan admitted kidnapping Shasta Groene, then 8, and her 9-year-old brother, Dylan, sexually abusing them and killing the boy. Shasta was rescued about seven weeks after the 2005 abduction when people spotted Duncan and the child at a restaurant.

    Duncan's guilty pleas to 10 federal felonies mean that Shasta Groene will be spared having to testify at a trial.

    Duncan earlier pleaded guilty in state court to kidnapping and murdering other members of the Groene family at their home in May 2005. Shasta and Dylan's mother, Brenda Groene; her fiance, Mark McKenzie; and her 13-year-old son, Slade Groene, were bound and bludgeoned to death with a hammer.

    Duncan was sentenced to life in prison without parole for kidnapping the three older victims. The death penalty remains a possibility for the state murder counts; the judge deferred imposing punishment on those counts to give federal prosecutors time to pursue their case, which is centered on events in Montana after the children were abducted.

    Shasta was not in the courtroom Monday. She lives in Coeur d'Alene with her father, Steve Groene, in a home built for them through donations from the community.

    While it is The Associated Press' policy not to identify alleged victims of sexual assault in most cases, the search for Shasta and her brother was heavily publicized and their names are widely known.

    Court documents allege Duncan took Shasta and Dylan and drove into the mountains near St. Regis, Mont., where he sexually abused them for weeks before killing Dylan. Duncan has been quoted in court documents as saying he was trying to return Shasta to her father when he and the little girl were spotted in a Coeur d'Alene restaurant.

    Duncan faces the death penalty on three of the federal felonies: kidnapping resulting in death, sexual exploitation of a child resulting in death, and using a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence resulting in death.

    He also pleaded guilty to kidnapping, two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a minor, being a felon in possession of a firearm, transportation of a stolen firearm, possession of an unregistered firearm, and transportation of a stolen vehicle.

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    December 14, 2007

    BOISE – U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge has set Joseph Duncan’s death penalty sentencing hearings to begin on April 14 – one week later than federal prosecutors had requested, but five months earlier than defense attorneys wanted.

    After Duncan pleaded guilty to all counts in a 10-count federal indictment for kidnapping and molesting two young North Idaho children and killing one, both sides reached an agreement that the sole surviving victim, Shasta Groene, wouldn’t have to testify against Duncan at his death penalty hearings. Instead, the young girl’s testimony will be provided through statements she made to law enforcement officers after her rescue from Duncan in July of 2005.

    In exchange, prosecutors agreed to a delay in the hearings to at least April 7. Duncan’s lawyers said they needed much longer – until September of 2008 – to adequately prepare his defense against a death sentence.

    Lodge, in an opinion issued this morning, wrote that he agreed with prosecutors that even though Shasta won’t have to testify, “The detrimental impact another extended continuance and further delay will pose to the child victim and the family members of all the victims is a relevant factor for the court to consider.” He added, “Likewise, the public’s interest in having this matter resolved in a timely fashion is a relevant consideration.”

    The judge added, “The amount of time provided by the April 14, 2008 setting is reasonable and sufficient for all counsel to satisfy their constitutional obligations in this matter.”

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    December 21, 2007

    Duncan's lawyers contest jury selection rules

    BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Joseph Duncan's lawyers, preparing for a federal penalty proceeding to determine whether the confessed killer will be executed, are contesting jury selection rules, arguing in part that the rules improperly exclude blind or hearing-impaired jurors.

    That exclusion makes the rules incompatible with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the defense lawyers said in arguments released Wednesday.

    "It makes no difference whether that jury will determine guilt or punishment, the selection process will still improperly exclude prospective jurors," wrote attorney Mark Larranaga.

    Jury selection in the federal sentencing proceeding is scheduled to begin April 14.

    Duncan pleaded guilty earlier this month to federal charges that could lead to his execution.

    Duncan abducted Shasta Groene, then 8, and her 9-year-old brother Dylan, from their Coeur d'Alene home in May 2005, sexually abusing them both and then killing Dylan in a remote Montana campsite.

    Duncan previously pleaded guilty in state court to killing the children's mother, Brenda Groene; her boyfriend, Mark McKenzie, and 13-year-old Slade Groene at the family home.

    Shasta was rescued about seven weeks after the abduction, on July 2, 2005, when a waitress spotted Duncan and the girl in a Coeur d'Alene Denny's restaurant.

    Duncan had been living in Fargo, N.D., before his arrest.

    Following Duncan's guilty plea to 10 federal charges including kidnapping resulting in death, federal prosecutors put together a list of motions they felt had become moot. Those included motions dealing with such things as expert witnesses on duct tape, hair and fibers, and the testimony of a Kootenai County jail chaplain.

    But Duncan's lawyers disputed the inclusion of jury selection rules on the list. Last month they had filed a motion to have Duncan's federal indictment dismissed because the grand jury that issued it was chosen with those rules.

    Among the reasons jurors can be disqualified from serving on a federal jury in Idaho are an inability to read, write and understand English, or "mental or physical infirmity."

    Duncan's attorneys argue that the rules are "so broad that many otherwise qualified jurors who are blind, physically or hearing impaired, or who simply have some difficulty with the English language may be disqualified, in violation of the Constitution and the Americans with Disabilities Act."

    Prospective jurors can also be excluded if they have a felony charge pending, a rule Duncan's lawyers said is unconstitutional because it ignored the presumption of innocence.

    Another motion still pending is one filed by Duncan's attorneys that argues the federal death penalty is unconstitutional.

    The court has issued a gag order on the case, meaning attorneys are not allowed to comment.

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    January 23, 2008

    BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Shortly after her rescue, Shasta Groene told investigators in gruesome detail how Joseph Duncan, a former Fargo man who kidnapped her and her brother Dylan after slaughtering other family members, had shot Dylan in the head at a remote campsite.

    According to court documents, the little girl described Duncan and the two children sitting around a campfire when Duncan pulled out a handgun that discharged accidentally, with the bullet hitting 9-year-old Dylan in the chest. Shasta said Duncan then walked close to the boy and fired another round into his head.

    Those details and others were revealed Tuesday in a U.S. District Court hearing on defense motions to suppress evidence that prosecutors want to use when the penalty phase of Duncan's federal case begins later this spring. The hearing continues Wednesday.

    Duncan, who attended North Dakota State University and faced charges in Detroit Lakes, Minn., when he fled the region, pleaded guilty in December to 10 federal charges that could lead to his execution for his role in the kidnapping of Shasta, then 8, and Dylan. Both were snatched from their Coeur d'Alene home in May 2005 and sexually abused before Duncan shot and killed Dylan at the campsite in Montana.

    Duncan previously pleaded guilty in state court to killing the children's mother, Brenda Groene; her boyfriend, Mark McKenzie, and 13-year-old Slade Groene at the family home.

    Shasta was rescued about seven weeks after the abduction, on July 2, 2005, when a waitress spotted Duncan and the girl in a Coeur d'Alene Denny's restaurant.

    In an interview after her rescue, Shasta also described a separate incident in which she and her brother were chained to a tree in the forest and temporarily abandoned by Duncan.

    She painted such a vivid picture of her brother's shooting that detectives came to believe Dylan was likely dead.

    Still, Kootenai County sheriff's Detective Sgt. Brad Maskell testified Tuesday that the hunt for Dylan continued. His body was eventually found at the Montana campsite.

    The testimony came as Duncan's legal team fights to suppress evidence gathered with search warrants issued shortly after Shasta was rescued. Specifically, the defense is challenging the seizure of a computer and other items taken from Duncan's red Jeep Cherokee Laredo. Police say that's the vehicle Duncan was driving when he was arrested in Coeur d'Alene.

    Prosecutors called several witnesses of their own, including Duncan's former landlord, to defend their evidence.

    Jeff Ware, who rented Duncan an apartment in Fargo, said Duncan left the unit in disarray and with writings on a mirror stating: "Sorry you missed me."

    Defense lawyers are disputing whether papers Duncan left behind at the apartment were abandoned, and therefore open to search. Ware said he boxed the belongings and sold some of Duncan's furniture at a garage sale. Jury selection in the sentencing phase is scheduled to begin April 14.

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    February 5, 2008

    BOISE – A federal judge has rejected motions by Joseph Duncan’s defense attorneys to suppress evidence seized from Duncan’s vehicle, which he was driving when he was found with young Shasta Groene, the only survivor of Duncan’s bloody attack on her family.

    U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge cited numerous reasons for rejecting the motion, including a major one: Duncan’s red 2005 Jeep Cherokee was stolen, so he had no legal right to object to its search.

    “Because the 2005 Jeep was stolen, as evidenced by defendant’s guilty plea to transportation of a stolen vehicle, he has no legitimate expectation of privacy in the vehicle, and, therefore, is unable to challenge the search,” the judge wrote in his decision.

    Evidence seized from the vehicle included a laptop computer, a computer storage device, a GPS unit and more.

    Lodge also rejected an attempt to suppress evidence seized from among Duncan’s possessions that were boxed up by his landlord after Duncan abandoned his Fargo, N.D. apartment shortly before the 2005 crimes against the Groene family. Duncan had abandoned the possessions, the judge found, by leaving the apartment, failing to pay rent, and sending an e-mail to a neighbor asking her to take his cats and stating that he wouldn’t be coming back.

    Among those items was an immigration document showing that Duncan traveled to Mexico in 1997 around the time of the murder of 10-year-old Anthony Martinez of Riverside, Calif. Duncan is a suspect in Martinez’ murder.

    Duncan has pleaded guilty to all charges in a 10-count federal indictment charging him with kidnapping Shasta, then 8, and her 9-year-old brother, Dylan, molesting the children and killing Dylan. He earlier pleaded guilty to murdering the children’s 13-year-old brother, Slade, their mother, Brenda Matthews Groene, and her fianc, Mark McKenzie, at the Groene family home just east of Coeur d’Alene.

    Duncan is scheduled for sentencing hearings in federal court in April to determine whether he receives the death penalty.

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    February 7, 2008

    BOISE, Idaho -- Attorneys for convicted murderer Joseph Edward Duncan III are asking a federal judge to postpone his sentencing hearing on 10 federal charges until September, and to prevent the only surviving victim from testifying about the effect the deaths of her mother, older brother and family friend had on her.

    The flurry of defense motions, filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday and Wednesday, also include a request to take the death penalty off the table for one of the charges against Duncan.

    Duncan pleaded guilty in December to the charges, all stemming from the kidnapping of Shasta Groene, then 8, and her brother Dylan, 9. Both were taken from their Coeur d'Alene home in May 2005 and sexually abused before Duncan shot and killed Dylan at a campsite in western Montana.

    Duncan previously pleaded guilty in state court to killing the children's mother, Brenda Groene; her boyfriend, Mark McKenzie; and 13-year-old Slade Groene at the family home.

    Shasta was rescued about seven weeks after the abduction, on July 2, 2005, when a waitress spotted Duncan and the girl in a Coeur d'Alene restaurant.

    A sentencing hearing is scheduled for April to determine whether Duncan should receive the death penalty. But Duncan's attorneys told a judge that without a postponement, the case will "inevitably result in the denial of Mr. Duncan's constitutional guarantee of effective counsel."

    U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge has already warned attorneys on both sides that if he can help it, there will be no more postponements. Duncan's attorneys - Mark Larranaga, of Seattle, Thomas Monaghan, of Boise and Judy Clark, a high-profile federal defense attorney from San Diego - maintain they need the extra time to find a "social history expert" who can narrate Duncan's life history to sentencing jurors.

    Often, social history experts are social workers or sociologists who research a defendant's life, focusing on things that would explain a tendency toward criminal or violent behavior.

    "Through its investigation and preparation, the defense has uncovered that Mr. Duncan's life history is permeated with abuse, neglect, torture, rape, and betrayal; all lending to a horrific life of trauma that in fairness must be weighed by the sentencing jury - not as an excuse for the conduct, but in its consideration of whether to sentence Mr. Duncan to life in prison without possibility of release, or death," the defense attorneys said in the motion.

    So far, several of the social history experts asked to take the case have declined because there is not enough time to prepare, the attorneys said.

    In a separate motion, defense attorneys asked Lodge to prohibit Shasta Groene from testifying about the effect that the murders of her mother, her brother Slade and McKenzie had on her. That's because those charges were handled already in state court, the defense attorneys said, and so they should not be considered during the federal case.

    The federal death penalty act "makes no express provision for victim impact evidence concerning the victim of a crime for which the defendant is not being sentenced," Duncan's attorneys contend in court filings.

    The defense also wants the judge to require all potential victim impact witnesses to offer their proposed testimony before the sentencing hearing so the court can limit or exclude anything deemed inappropriate.

    Finally, the defense attorneys are asking Lodge to eliminate the possibility of a death sentence for one of the charges against Duncan: Sexual exploitation of a child resulting in death.

    In pleading guilty to that charge and the others, Duncan admitted that he forced Dylan Groene (referred to as D.G. in court documents) to take part in videotaped sexual acts on June 22, 2005, in an old wooden cabin in the Lolo National Forest. Duncan also admitted that he killed Dylan on or about the same day by shooting him with a stolen shotgun. But his attorneys maintain that because the killing didn't take place during the videotaped child pornography, the death penalty can't apply.

    "While the facts admitted by Mr. Duncan establish his guilt ... they do not establish that his killing of D.G. occurred 'in the course of' that criminal conduct," the defense attorneys wrote. "To the contrary, the facts show that the production of the sexually explicit video and the shooting of D.G. were two discrete events that occurred at different times and not in the same location."

    Lodge has placed all those involved in the case under a gag order.

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