High Tension in Degorski Jury Room

Degorski trial jury stalemate led to some frustration

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC Chicago
    James Degorski's mug shot.

    Deciding a man's fate is no easy task, and the set of jurors who were asked to choose the fate of James Degorski didn't have an easy time coming to their conclusion. 

    Jurors initially voted 8-4 in favor of sentencing James Degorski to death.  But unanimity is required for a death sentence. So they tried again. 

    A second vote came shortly after, but only two jurors moved in favor of the death penalty: The vote stood at 10-2.

    Then tensions in the Cook County Circuit Court jury room started rising. Two men would not change their votes.

    ”It did get a little heated and frustrating,” Cynthia Rathburn, 47, told the Tribune. “It was like that until we realized we were not going to change his vote.”

    Pablo Laboy, one of the two men who firmly opposed signing Degorski’s death warrant, said the man responsible for killing seven people at Brown’s Chicken and Pasta restaurant in Palatine 16 years ago deserved the kind of mercy and understanding he never received as a child, the Tribune reported.

    Laboy, 31, and the other man (who did not want his name disclosed) resisted arguments from the other jurors urging them to change their vote.

    Laboy said he found himself in a difficult position, without much support from the other opposing juror, who mostly kept quiet.

    “It’s definitely difficult because everybody looks at you like you’re not doing the right thing,” Laboy told the Tribune.

    In the end he justified his decision saying Degorski had not received the appropriate psychiatric help for his rough childhood.

    “It’s not an excuse for doing the crime but I felt he had a really rough childhood,” Laboy said. “He was the only one who didn’t get psychiatric help. Maybe he was savable.”

    Just before 5 p.m. on Tuesday, jurors reached a stalemate, which ultimately resulted in Degorski’s life-in-prison sentence.

    After the verdict, some jurors still felt frustrated.

    “I just feel kind of down about the final outcome,” juror Thomas White, 63, told the Tribune. “But that wasn’t the way it was meant to be.”

    Others came to see the life sentence as a good decision.

    “Either way, he is going to suffer in jail,” juror Elaine Maley, 51, told the Tribune.

    After the verdict, Laboy said he felt in peace with his decision.

    “I just feel that life without parole is a better sentence anyway,” he told the Tribune. “It ain’t going to be easy in jail.”