The Jeanine Nicarico case took another bizarre turn Tuesday night, as jurors contemplating the death penalty for admitted killer Brian Dugan announced they had a verdict, then withdrew that announcement and said they would need more time to deliberate.
It was the latest troubling twist in a case which has spanned three decades, since the 10 year old Naperville girl was abducted from her home February 25, 1983. During that period, three other men were tried for the crime, and two were sent to death row.
Dugan confessed to the Nicarico killing, while already in jail for the murders of two others, 7 year old Melissa Ackerman of Somanauk, and Geneva nurse Donna Schnorr. He was eventually charged with the Nicarico killing after DNA testing positively tied him to the case.
After weeks of testimony, the death penalty jury finally received the case just after 5pm Tuesday afternoon. Shortly after 10pm, they switched on a light outside the jury room, indicating they had reached a verdict. The judge advised that the defendant, attorneys, and the Nicarico family should be summoned to the courtroom. A giant partition made of bullet-proof glass was rolled into place, seperating spectators from the defendant.
But then the proceedings took an odd twist. With everyone standing and waiting for the jury to walk in and announce their verdict, jurors sent word to Judge George Bakalis that they "needed a couple of minutes." Then, after an hour's delay, they advised they had begun their deliberations anew. They ended those deliberations for the evening, and were to be sequestered at a local hotel, shortly after 11pm.
Courtroom insiders speculated that after the jury reached a unanimous decision, one or more balked at signing the jury form which would have cemented a decision for Dugan, either the death penalty or life without parole. Even the judge indicated he didn't know for certain what had happened. But he ordered the jurors to resume their deliberations at 9:30 Wednesday morning, and asked prosecutors to prepare two new jury forms for their eventual decision.