Jury selection in 2nd Brown's Chicken trial

August 6, 2009 3:23:23 PM PDT
Jury selection began Thursday in the trial of the second suspect accused of carrying out the Brown's Chicken restaurant massacre in Palatine back in 1993. James Degorski is charged with the murders of seven people inside that restaurant. Degorski's co-defendant, Juan Luna, was convicted of the murders in 2007.

Degorski and Luna went to high school together in Palatine. In 2002 they were arrested for the murders. Thursday, 150 prospective jurors received instructions from the judge.

The fate of James Degorski will be in the hands of a jury. This week the jury selection begins for the second suspect in the Brown's Chicken case who was arrested in 2002.

Two years ago, Juan Luna was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murders at Brown's Chicken.

On January 8, 1993, five employees and two owners of Brown's Chicken and Pasta were preparing to close the Palatine restaurant. Police found the seven shot and piled into a walk-in cooler and freezer.

The victims were 16-year-old Michael Castro, 17-year-old Rico Solis, Guadalupe Maldonado, Thomas Mennes, Marcus Nellsen, and owners Lynn and Richard Ehlenfeldt.

The investigation went cold for years until DNA from a partially eaten piece of chicken from the restaurant was linked to Juan Luna with new technology. Then a former girlfriend of James Degorski came forward to say the two were involved.

Juan Luna's trial took several weeks in which jurors saw a video taped confession of Luna. James Degorski's trial is also expected to take weeks. Prosecutors plan to show video of Degorski in which he allegedly admits he and Luna planned the robbery of Brown's and that Degorski shot two victims and Luna shot five.

Some court watchers say, even though Luna and Degorski were charged together, Luna's conviction may not impact Degorski's verdict.

"Jurors will come in a year or two after a front page story, 6 o'clock news story, and they will honestly say they don't remember. They don't have the foggiest recollection. Oh, yeah, they remember something about somebody went to trial, and I think they're being truthful," said Prof. Richard Kling, Chicago-Kent College of Law.

Law professor Richard Kling is also a practicing defense attorney. He says the jury selection process is an effort to find individuals who can base their decision on information and testimony only presented during the trial.

"The jurors who will sit are either jurors who can say they can put it completely out of their mind. Whether they're being truthful or not is a different story, or jurors who don't recall it at all," said Kling.


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