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Jury selection under way in second Brown's Chicken murder case
By Barbara Vitello | Daily Herald Staff

James Degorski


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Published: 8/6/2009 12:28 PM | Updated: 8/6/2009 6:16 PM

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Jury selection got under way Thursday in the case of The People of the State of Illinois v. James Degorski at Chicago's Criminal Courts Building.

Cook County Sheriff's Deputies ushered about 150 prospective jurors into a courtroom where Judge Vincent Gaughan informed the gathering that 12 of them would determine the fate of Degorski, 36, charged with the 1993 slayings of Palatine Brown's Chicken

& Pasta owners Lynn and Richard Ehlenfeldt and their employees Michael Castro, Guadalupe Maldonado, Thomas Mennes, Marcus Nellsen and Rico Solis.

Degorski's co-defendant Juan Luna was convicted of first-degree murder in 2007 and sentenced to life in prison.

The jurors who responded to their summons Thursday likely anticipated spending the day in the jury room at 16th Street and California Avenue, watching TV and reading before being dismissed in the late afternoon with a check for $17.20 and the county's thanks.

Instead, the 150 potential Degorski jurors were escorted to Courtroom 500, an imposing, space with high ceilings and an aura of marble, whose jury box contains 16 black leather chairs for 12 jurors and four alternates.

After Gaughan cautioned them not to talk to anyone about the case, the potential jurors returned to the jury room to fill out multi-page questionnaires.

The court did not provide a copy of the questionnaires. However, a copy of the juror information sheet proposed for the Luna trial and obtained by the Daily Herald in 2007, included questions about potential jurors' marital and employment status, education, religious beliefs, health, experience with the criminal justice system, leisure interests and activities and views on the death penalty.

The prospective jurors will return to the courthouse at 9 a.m. Monday, when they will be questioned by defense and prosecution attorneys. Opening arguments are scheduled for Aug. 31. The trial is expected to last about a month. If convicted, Degorski faces the death penalty.