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Palatine police chief testifies to leaks in Brown's Chicken investigation
By Kimberly Pohl and Barbara Vitello | Daily Herald Staff

James Degorski


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Published: 9/17/2009 1:38 PM | Updated: 9/17/2009 5:14 PM

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The third week of James Degorski's capital murder trial concluded quietly Thursday.

Palatine Police Chief John Koziol admitted that the killings of seven people in a Brown's Chicken & Pasta restaurant in 1993 generated "intense media scrutiny through the years." He also testified leaks came from inside the task force charged with investigating the murders. The defense has suggested that public pressure to solve the case resulted in authorities mishandling the investigation and forcing false confessions, including Degorski's.

Koziol, who was involved in the investigation from the beginning, said that the task force initially numbered 110 officers from county, state and local agencies, as well as the FBI.

The task force, which ran down more than 4,000 leads, dwindled to between 10 and 12 officers by the end of 1993. The following year, Koziol said the decision was made to transfer evidence from a backlogged Northern Illinois Police Crime Lab to the Illinois State Police Crime Lab for further analysis.

"The state had a lot more analysts," Koziol said. "NIPCL worked it hard, but they had other cases. "

Earlier, a fingerprint expert testified that a print left on a bloody mop handle did not match Degorski. Mark Acree, an independent consultant hired by the defense, also said it's possible a person can leave latent prints on an object, even while wearing thin latex gloves.

The prosecution, which claims Degorski wore gloves and used the mop to clean up the restaurant the night of Jan. 8, 1993, spent the morning questioning Acree's expertise.

They said no other forensic expert before Acree found enough print ridge detail to make a suitable comparison to other prints. They also argued Acree was unable to duplicate his own work when he analyzed the mop handle a second time, and brought up an error he made in 2006 while employed at a major defense contractor.

Finally, the prosecution pointed out Acree is charging $225 an hour for his services as a witness for the defense and spent up to 10 hours on pretrial preparation, which prompted smirks from several jurors.

Degorski, 37, has been charged with the slayings. Police say Degorski and his high school pal Juan Luna committed the murders out of a quest to "do something big." DNA and a partial palm print linked Luna to the murders. No physical evidence links Degorski to the crime. Luna was convicted in 2007 and sentenced to life in prison. If convicted, Degorski could face the death penalty. The trial, before Cook County Circuit Court Judge Vincent Gaughan, resumes Monday, Sept. 21, in Chicago.