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Dozens questioned for Brown's murder jury, but none added
By Barbara Vitello | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/12/2009 8:09 PM | Updated: 8/12/2009 8:24 PM

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Three days into jury selection in the murder trial of James Degorski, the court has dismissed 40 prospective jurors for cause. That includes more than a dozen people who said religious or philosophical beliefs prevented them from imposing the death penalty under any circumstances. Since the selection process began Monday, the court has also dismissed prospective jurors for medical reasons, financial hardship and language difficulties.

No new jurors were seated Wednesday, leaving the number selected at eight, and Cook County Judge Vincent M. Gaughan and attorneys are expected to continue into next week to seat four more jurors plus alternates.

Degorski, 36, is charged with first-degree murder in the 1993 slayings of seven people at Brown's Chicken and Pasta in Palatine. Degorski's co-defendant, Juan Luna, was convicted of the murders in 2007 and sentenced to life in prison.

On Wednesday, Gaughan also dismissed a man who said that after he filled out the juror's questionnaire last week, he researched the case online, in defiance of Gaughan's order not to do so. The man responded that he Googled the case because he knew that he would not be able to do so if he were seated as a juror.

Among the other prospective jurors excused Wednesday was an apartment building manager who said he would always apply the death penalty for a first-degree murder conviction and an attorney who wrote in his juror's questionnaire that it is "not my place to take someone's life."

Those still under consideration for the Degorski jury include a mechanic in his mid-20s who counts "Cops" and "Court TV" among his favorite TV shows; a corrections officer who has worked at Cook County Jail for seven years; and a native of Germany who became a U.S. citizen three years ago and called the process "a brand new learning experience for me."

So far, the defense has exercised nine peremptory challenges - using a limited number of chances to dismiss potential jurors without giving a reason - and the prosecution has exercised five.

Earlier Wednesday, Gaughan ordered the media to leave the courtroom for a short time in order to discuss with the attorneys a matter under judicial seal related to the surname of a prospective juror, who was later excused.

Jury selection continues Thursday at Chicago's Criminal Courts Building.