Life in Prison for Degorski - NBC Chicago

Life in Prison for Degorski

Unlike criminal trial, decision in sentencing wasn't unanimous



    Life in Prison for Degorski
    NBC Chicago
    James Degorski's mug shot.

    James Degorski will spend the rest of his life in prison for his role in the 1993 Brown’s Chicken Massacre in Palatine, in which seven people were brutally murdered.

    Eligible for the death penalty, Degorski was expression-less as the decision was read:  "natural life without parole."

    Ten jurors voted for the death penalty, but two voted to spare him, the foreperson said.  She said the two could not be persuaded and would not elaborate on their reasons.

    "I appreciate the jury's decision," Degorski's mother, Patricia Degorski, said after the verdict was read. "My heart goes out to what the victims' families have been through this whole trial," she said.

    Three weeks ago, the same took just two hours to find him guilty of the crime.

    Degorski's co-defendant, Juan Luna, was convicted and sentenced to life two years ago after one juror held out against the others, who voted for the death penalty.

    Attorney’s on both sides pressed their cases with jurors during closing statements.

    Degorski’s lawyer, Mark Levitt asked jurors to show mercy.

    "Finding mercy where it shouldn't exist is exactly what mercy is," Leavitt said. "It's not an easy thing to do. It takes courage."

    Following on the argument he made during the sentencing hearings, Levitt showed school portraits of Degorski and his siblings as kids and reminded jurors that they were physically and sexually abused during their youth.

    Prosecutor Tom Biesty countered the mercy argument with one of his own. Biesty showed pictures of the seven victims from the massacre to the jury. Half of the pictures came from birthday, wedding and graduation pictures of the deceased. Another set showed them post-mortem.

    "Do you think they were pleading for their lives?"

    Beisty asked. "Do you think they were begging for mercy?"

    "He slaughtered them that night," Biesty said. "He wanted to do something big and he wanted to be famous. Well, he did do something big and he is famous...and now it's his judgment day."