Dugan came within minutes of having life spared
The ink was barely dry on the verdict form to sentence Brian Dugan to natural life when two jurors who resisted giving the convicted murder the death penalty wanted more time to deliberate.
The next day, after both jurors pored over more evidence to resolve lingering doubts, the DuPage County jury reached a unanimous decision that Dugan should die for the Feb. 25, 1983 murder of Jeanine Nicarico.
"No one was bullying anybody," said juror Michael Euringer, a 79-year-old Carol Stream retired broker. "They weren't holdouts. They were just searching. I think in their heads they were undecided. They weren't real firm on the 'no' position."
The verdict was reached Wednesday after nearly 11 hours of deliberations over two days.
By noon Thursday, Dugan was transported to a state prison. He had spent nearly four years in the DuPage County jail after being indicted for the 10-year-old Naperville girl's abduction, rape and murder.
Dugan, 53, won't formally be placed on Illinois' death row at Pontiac Correctional Center until after a perfunctory Dec. 16 court hearing in which Circuit Judge George Bakalis imposes the jury's verdict.
Dugan has been serving life prison terms since 1985 for two other murders - nurse Donna Schnorr of Geneva and 7-year-old Missy Ackerman of Somonauk.
But Dugan came within minutes of getting a third life sentence.
Some panelists who spoke to the Daily Herald said they signed the "life" verdict form late Tuesday because they lacked a unanimous death decision. They said the two jurors who were in the minority pulled it back after realizing it was too premature.
By that time, Bakalis had announced in the courtroom that the jury signaled it had a verdict. There was about a 30-minute delay to allow the Nicarico family to return to court. They did. Still, at least 15 more minutes went by. Finally, Bakalis returned to the bench and informed a packed gallery of stunned families and reporters that the jury would continue its deliberations in the morning.
Members were sequestered overnight at a Lisle hotel.
The two jurors who initially resisted a death verdict were a 50-year-old Naperville computer programmer and a 50-year-old Darien Walmart supervisor who told lawyers during the selection process that she believes in the concept of mercy and that people can change for the better.
She did not return calls for comment, but the Naperville man told the Daily Herald that he kept an open mind and declined to sign a death verdict until a further review of the evidence to resolve lingering questions. The juror, who asked not to be named publicly, said deliberations did not grow too heated; no one was pressured.
But, he said, "there was nothing about this process that was easy."
"I think it's just the most difficult decision," juror Jill Russell of Naperville said. "I think that's what they were grappling with those few moments waiting. It just hit them, 'We have to go a little further.'"
The fact Dugan came, perhaps, within minutes of having his life spared chilled victims.
"I don't see how anyone, who paid attention to the facts presented at the sentencing trial, could vote any other way than for the death penalty," said Karen Schweitzer, who is Donna Schnorr's older sister. "It was the correct verdict. I like knowing that death row isn't going to be quite the resort he's been accustomed to and now he'll have fewer privileges."
Added DuPage County State's Attorney Joseph Birkett: "There's one verdict in this case and that verdict was that he receive a death sentence. That's the bottom line."http://www.dailyherald.com/story/?id=336251