Jury selection begins in Dugan sentencing

September 22, 2009 2:53:46 PM PDT
Attorneys began questioning potential jurors in the Brian Dugan case Tuesday. The jury will decide whether Dugan gets the death penalty for killing Jeanine Nicarico, 10, in 1983. So far 11 prospective jurors have been questioned. No one has been formally picked yet. It is going to be a very slow process for a death penalty sentencing trial tentatively set to begin October 6.

Brian Duggan has been in prison for nearly the last quarter century, serving life sentences for two separate murders. In late July, he pled guilty to the murder of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico 26 years ago.

On Tuesday, Dugan sat quietly in a courtroom as questions were asked of prospective jurors who would decide his fate. They were asked about their families, cars, jobs, and even the pets they have but most importantly they are asked their feelings on the death penalty, for that is what this jury must ultimately decide, whether Dugan will be allowed to live out his life in prison or be executed.

The very first juror said he is the father of a 10-year-old girl and knows the case and could not be dissuaded from the dealt penalty. He was excused. A woman who said she was philosophically opposed to the dealt penalty was also excused.

Jeanine Nicarico's parents, Tom and Pat, were in court watching the proceedings on Tuesday as they have for every court matter going back 26 years to the murder of their daughter.

"In my mind, a life sentence for him is no punishment at all," said Thomas Nicarico, the victim's father. " The only thing that is punishment is the death penalty, and he has earned it."

In a letter to the Daily Herald, Dugan said, "My main motivation was to take responsibility for these crimes, express my remorse and for the truth to finally emerge."

The Dugan death penalty sentencing trial scheduled to begin October 6 and may last four to six weeks.

Even though Dugan entered a blind plea agreement, the DuPage County state's attorney had not agreed to the punishment.

The 52-year-old Dugan has been behind bars since 1988, serving two life sentences for the murders of a 7-year-old DeKalb County girl and a Geneva woman.

Dugan had long been suspected of the murder of Jeanine Nicarico. The Naperville girl had stayed home from school because she was sick. Her body was found two days later seven miles away.

Two other men were wrongly convicted in Jeanine's murder, and both served time on death row before they were eventually cleared. Dugan finally pleaded guilty to the murder in July.

Rolando Cruz, one of the men wrongly convicted in the murder, may also testify at the sentencing. The entire sentencing process is expected to take several weeks.

There were 140 people in the jury pool. Each filled out a questionnaire with roughly 100 questions. Juror questionnaires typically ask about family background and other boiler-plate questions and asks potential jurors for their feelings on the death penalty.


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