A state appellate court panel has denied the latest appeal filed on behalf of a man convicted of the 1984 murder of a Redondo Beach woman who was his supervisor at a Los Angeles International Airport restaurant.
In a ruling Thursday, the three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s claim that there were errors in Henry Earl Duncan’s most recent trial for the Nov. 13, 1984, stabbing death of Josephine Eileen DeBaun, a 28-year-old mother of two in the so-called “money room” at the restaurant.
“Duncan’s palm and fingerprints were found in wet blood in the room, his shoe print in blood was found under DeBaun’s leg, and he had the duplicate key to the bank, most likely taken during the robbery,” the panel noted in its 20-page ruling. “This evidence overwhelmingly showed he was present in the tiny money room at the time of or immediately after the murder. Duncan also had a strong motive to want DeBaun dead — she would have recognized him and likely reported him to police. Given the brutality of the killing and DeBaun’s defensive wounds suggesting she fought back, Duncan at best stood by while she was violently attacked and killed, showing he intended her death.”
The panel noted that Duncan tried to establish that an unidentified accomplice murdered his supervisor and that he did not intend for her to be killed.
Duncan was initially convicted of first-degree murder, with jurors finding true the special-circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a robbery. He was sentenced to death.
But a three-justice panel from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the special-circumstance allegation and vacated his death sentence.
In November 2010, a jury in Torrance again found true the robbery special-circumstance allegation. The District Attorney’s Office opted not to seek the death penalty a second time and Duncan was sentenced in December 2010 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
A state appeals court panel subsequently overturned the special-circumstance allegation again, in 2016, prompting a third trial in which a jury in Torrance found the special-circumstance allegation true.
Duncan was sentenced in June 2018 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.