By BOB PALMER
The idea of swift justice goes back to the very roots of the Tree of Liberty.
Magna Carta asserted that “to no one will we refuse or delay right or justice”.
The Bible and Jewish texts speak of the need for swift justice. Texas has the Speedy Trial Act.
When you are a party to a murder case, though, even a few weeks can seem an eternity, grinding on nerves and emotions.
“I can’t tell you how difficult life has been for my children,” Christiana Stebans said.
Stebans’ ex-husband, Danny Duncan, was shot and killed while on a frog gigging trip with two cousins Memorial Day weekend in 2017.
“They had scheduled a docket for the end of July,” Stebans said. “We were going to Egypt. We got word about the docket call and rescheduled. It is so hard to get the children to understand. The next docket call was Aug. 30. We understand the next one will probably be postponed, too.”
Stebans and her family are not the only ones finding the wait an ordeal.
Sandy Duncan, the man charged with killing Danny Duncan, says the business grinds on him, as well. “I, too, would like to get this over with,” Sandy Duncan, who made bail the day he was arrested, said. “It’s wearing on me and mine.”
Duncan has no doubts about the outcome of a trial.
“I’m 100 percent innocent,” Duncan declared. “I’ve passed multiple polygraph tests. I’ll take a state administered polygraph.”
Marion County District Attorney Angie Smoak explained, however, getting a case to trial is not like a one-hour episode of “NCIS.”
“I can’t tell you how long it will take,” Smoak said. “It depends on forensic evidence, obtaining witnesses, defense attorneys, a lot of factors.” State law also comes into play.
“There is an order of priority by statute,” Smoak explained. “People who are incarcerated go first. I have three people who are charged with murder in my jail. Mr. Duncan is out on bond.”
Smoak emphasized, “these are factors not within my control.” In addition to the three murder cases, Smoak must also deal with 72 other criminal cases pending on the trial
All Stebans sees, however, is the man who shot her ex-husband walking the streets.
“I don’t understand any of this,” Stebans said. “He’s still allowed to live his life.”
Stebans, who has taught in Jefferson ISD schools, said she and her family constantly encounter Duncan in their small hometown, Linden. They see each other at church, at the grocery store and their children go to the same school, Linden-Kildare.
“It rips at your heart,” Stebans said. “It’s almost like having this Band-aide. It starts to feel a little bit better and every time you see him, it’s ripped right off.”
The next comment came with a sob. “You see Sandy living with family and Danny is dead,” she said.
Duncan said his attempts to speak with Stebans were futile. He wanted to explain what happened. “It was 100 percent an accident,” Duncan said. “I feel horrible over what happened.”
The three cousins started on their frog gigging trip at 10 p.m. in a 12-foot aluminum johnboat they paddled. “I had shot at a snake,” Duncan related. Danny also “shot at the snake. I went to lay my .357 down. The gun went off. The shot went through my left hand and struck Danny in back.”
It would be five and a half hours before they could get help. The boat tipped over and everyone went into the water. It was 4:30 a.m. “I was able to get Danny up on the
bank and started giving him CPR,” Duncan said.
They were able to call 911 with cell phones, but rescuers could not find them.
“We were on Little Cypress Creek (in Marion County),” Duncan said. “We’re in a swamp. Conditions were pretty bad.” They were eventually able to flag down a helicopter whose crew directed rescuers to the site. Help arrived at 10 a.m.
Marion County Sheriff David McKnight reported earlier this year, “Danny Duncan died due to a single gunshot wound. This incident was first reported as accidental, and circumstances warranted further investigation, which resulted in Sandy Duncan’s indictment by a Marion County Grand Jury.”
Stebans related how her daughter, Caitlan, made posters she put up around Linden calling for “Justice for Danny Duncan.” Stebans believes Duncan ripped down the posters.
“My life and my kids’ lives have been threatened,” Duncan said. “The public needs to know my side of the story.”
Meanwhile, both sides must wait.
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