Dugan sentenced to death row

Should the moratorium be lifted?
November 11, 2009 (WHEATON, Ill.) Dugan, who was wearing black pants and a gray shirt at the sentencing, showed no reaction. He was not wearing shackles, which were removed in the jury's presence.

Sobs could be heard in the courtroom, where Jeanine Nicarico's family --her parents and two sisters--watched as the verdict was read. The 10-year-old girl was murdered and raped by Dugan in 1983.

"We realize this will never give us any of us closure -but it does give us some sort of relief. We also know this chapter is not over since there will be appeals, but at least we have the satisfaction of knowing that Brian Dugan is on death row, some place he did not want to be," said Pat Nicarico, Jeanine's mother.

Dugan- who is already serving life sentences in two unrelated murders-- pleaded guilty in Jeanine's death in July 2009. He had hoped to avoid the death sentence and had wanted to take that option out of the deal in exchange for his plea. Prosecutors refused.

"Brian Dugan is going where he belongs...to death row, where his fantasies of raping little girls will turn to a nightmare, which is what he should have waiting for the people of the state of Illinois to end his life on our terms, not his," said DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett.

During the six week trial, the state argued that Dugan had no remorse in the case and only took responsibility in an attempt to save his own life. His defense argued Dugan is 'not right' in his brain.

Birkett was joined by the Nicarico family-- as well as the families of Donna Schnorr, 27, and Melissa Ackerman, 7, who were also killed by Dugan -- after the sentencing on Wednesday.

"I feel like she was with me today," said Karen Schweitzer, Schnorr's sister.

"It does give us a small measure of relief and closure," said Pat Nicarico, Jeanine's mother.

"Even though we'll never get back Melissa, Jeanine or Donna, it comes finally," said Roger Schnorr, Donna Schnorr's brother.

In the 26 years since Jeanine's murder, the case has led to the wrongful conviction and imprisonments of other men, including Rolando Cruz.

"It's a great feeling to be home...we're starting new again," said Cruz. said Cruz after the sentencing.

Those wrongful convictions led to a moratorium on executions, which is still in place. DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett believes this case could lift that moratorium and thinks Dugan could be executed in 8 to 10 years if that's the case.

"It's time to lift the moratorium and let the criminal justice system move forward or put forth a bill," said Birkett.

Six questions over 10 hours

Jurors deliberated for 10 hours over two days before reaching its decision. On Tuesday, they had announced they had reached a verdict, but changed their minds and returned to deliberations that night. The judge had them sequestered overnight.

They returned to deliberations with three questions on Wednesday.

The jury asked for and received transcripts of George Mueller's testimony. He was Dugan's public defender who had Dugan write down his confession in 1985, but it was sealed. The confession was widely known about in recent years, but not released in full until July of this year.

Jurors also asked for a copy of the 1986 search warrant that authorized the state to take samples of Brian Dugan's hair. That sample was then compared to one hair found on a blindfold on Jeanine. The tests ended up being inconclusive.

Prosecutors and Dugan's attorney did not object to letting the jury see the two page warrant. The request has people in the courtroom scratching their heads.

They also asked for transcripts of the testimony of former Illinois State Police investigator Ed Cisowski. Cisowski originally interviewed Brian Dugan November 16, 1985. By early 1987, Cisowksi testified he had a split with DuPage law enforcement, because Cisowski became convinced Cruz, Hernandez and Buckley had nothing to do with Nicarico murder... He thought Dugan did it and acted alone. Judge will provide jurors with transcripts of that testimony.

During the two-day deliberation, the jury asked six questions.

On Tuesday, the defense team said Dugan has a brain defect. Also on Jeanine's father Tom read a brief statement thanking jurors for their service in the last five weeks of trial.

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