Jury: Dugan eligible for death

October 7, 2009 10:44:11 AM PDT
A jury has decided convicted killer Brian Dugan is eligible to be executed. Last summer, Dugan pleaded guilty to the kidnap, rape and murder of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico in 1983.The next step will be for the jury to decide whether Dugan will actually be sentenced to die, now that they have rendered him eligible for such a punishment. That process will likely take about four to six weeks.

DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett said it took the jury an hour Wednesday to determine Dugan was eligible for capital punishment.

On Tuesday, a sentencing hearing included emotional testimony from the family of the young murder victim.

Twenty-four years ago, Dugan confessed to the murders of a 7-year-old girl and 27-year-old woman. At that time, he also claimed to have abducted and murdered 10-year-old Nicarico. However, prosecutors had other suspects under arrest in that brutal crime and were skeptical of his confession and rejected his demand to be spared the death penalty.

Since then, Dugan has aged while serving his two life sentences in the other cases. Now, a jury of seven women and five men will decide if Dugan, 53, should live or die for murdering Nicarico.

On Tuesday, prosecutor Mike Wolfe walked through the case in all its gruesome detail - calling it exceptionally brutal and heinous. He implored the jury to give Dugan, "the penalty he richly deserves and that is the death penalty."

The Nicarico family was there in the Wheaton courtroom-- as they have been for every court matter since Jeanine's murder. Jeanine's oldest sister, Kathy, briefly and tearfully testified about the day she came home over 26 years ago and found Jeanine was missing. Jeanine's body was found two days later.

Dugan's defense team argues that his full confession three months ago to the Nicarico murder means that Dugan has taken responsibility and should be spared the death penalty. They will argue that Dugan has great remorse for his adult life of crime-- and that the parental abuse he suffered as a child cannot be minimized.

Steve Greenberg, Dugan's lead attorney, said to the jury, "Please keep an open mind."


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