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Luna prosecutor's closing points to DNA, prints
What's new: Prosecution presents its closing arguments
What's next: Defense gives its closing arguments.
By Joseph Ryan and Stacy St. Clair | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 5/9/2007

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If Juan Luna's confession to the worst slaying in suburban Chicago history was coerced, then there wouldn't be DNA and print evidence tying him to the Palatine crime scene, the prosecution told jurors in closing arguments today.

"False confessions are sterile. They are barren. And they can not lead to any other evidence," said prosecutor Linas Kelecius in a courtroom packed with more than 100 people.

Prosecutors opened their closing remarks Wednesday attacking the heart of Luna's defense: that his confession was faked because he wanted to see his son after 19 hours of interrogation.

In 13 days of testimony, Luna's defense team laid out that possibility by showing jurors another, unrelated man's confession to killing the seven people at the Palatine Brown's Chicken & Pasta on Jan. 8, 1993. The prosecution contends that confession was coerced, an assertion that the defense says even further raises questions about Luna's statement to Palatine police in 2002.

The courtroom today was filled with the family and friends of the seven victims as well as a full row of Luna's family. Luna, dressed in a black suit, winked to his family as guards escorted him in.

Luna, 33, and his alleged accomplice Jim Degorski, 34, have both pleaded not guilty. They are being tried separately and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Kelecius spent about an hour and a half tying together the evidence against Luna for jurors, who could begin deliberations today. He pointed out that much of the evidence matches details in Luna's 43-minute videotaped confession and his alleged bragging of the crimes to two old high school friends.

For example, Luna said in his confession that one of the teen workers vomited French fries after being shot in the walk-in freezer. Palatine High School student Rico Solis had vomit in his mouth and on his shirt, and Anne Lockett - who came forward to finger Luna and Degorski in 2002 - said Luna told her that detail as well.

Plus, Luna allegedly told Lockett and another friend, Eileen Bakalla, that he ate chicken in the restaurant before attacking the workers. Prosecutors say DNA found on chicken bones in a near-empty trash bin match Luna, a genetic profile that has just a 1 in 2.8 trillion likelihood of belonging to another Hispanic.

A napkin found next to those bones contained a partial palm print that a prosecution witness says matches Luna.

"That alone convicts Juan Luna. Case closed," Kelecius told jurors about links between the confession and evidence. "That alone makes this an open-and-shut case. You can stop there."

Kelecius went on to argue Luna's animated demeanor in the confession shows it was not coerced, in contrast to the other man's halting and vague confession.

Kelecius told jurors he didn't have to prove Luna's intent to kill the seven victims, but he argued that murder was the defendant's plan all along anyway.

Luna, who worked at Brown's less than a year earlier, knew that some of the victims would be able to identify him, Kelecius said. Still, he took great effort to cover his tracks before the armed robbery even began, he said.

"[The victims] would get out and run to the police and tell them, 'I know who did this - Juan Luna. I know Juan Luna," Kelecius said to explain why Luna would feel he needed to kill them.

In addition, Luna and Degorski allegedly descended on Brown's late that night with pockets full of bullets for a single, silver .38-caliber revolver. Twenty bullets were recovered from the bloody crime scene.

"You don't bring pockets full of bullets to do an armed robbery," Kelecius said. "You do that for something way bigger than an armed robbery."

Luna's efforts to group the workers into the walk-in freezer and a walk-in cooler also show he planned to kill them, Kelecius said.

"He is herding them in there to put them to death," he said. "No one is coming out alive from that restaurant."

Those shot to death that night include restaurant owners Lynn and Richard Ehlenfeldt and employees Michael Castro, Guadalupe Maldonado, Marcus Nellsen, Thomas Mennes and Solis.

In conclusion, Kelecius told jurors the evidence leaves no doubt Luna is the killer authorities sought for nearly a decade.

"He is proud of what he has done," he said, looking at Luna in disdain and referring to his bragging comments to friends about the crime.

The defense has argued authorities mishandled the chicken bones, making the DNA evidence useless. They also dispute the palm print and say the two witness have a vendetta against Luna and Degorski. The defense's closing arguments will take place this afternoon.

What the jury will have to consider

The defense's case Key elements of the prosecution Complete coverage

Case pointsDNA evidenceProsecution: DNA found on half-eatenpieces of chicken matches Luna. The likelihoodof another person having that samegenetic code is 1 in 2.8 trillion. Defense:DNA has been contaminated,thanks to repeated thawing and people touchingthe chicken without gloves. Authoritiesalso lost the DNA swabs taken from thebones. Partial palm printProsecution:Partial palm print found on adiscarded napkin could not match anyoneelse in the world besides Luna. Defense:The dime-size print area is toosmall to definitively say it belongs to Luna.Also suggests Luna, a former Brown'semployee, would have touched lots of napkinstacks during his employment.WitnessesProsecution:Two women who testified Lunaand pal Jim Degorski told them about theirinvolvement in the murders are believable -despite having kept a horrific secret for nineyears. Defense:The women, who have histories ofdrug and alcohol use, are liars with personalagendas against both men.Luna's confessionProsecution:Luna's 43-minute confessioncontains facts only the killer would know andcorroborates physical evidence and witnessstatements. Defense:Luna, whose young son had beenwith him when he was arrested, would havesaid anything to be reunited with the child.Simonek's confessionProsecution:John Simonek confessed afterbeing fed information from police. Defense:Simonek knew details only killerswould know. If he didn't do it, it's possiblethat another innocent man could confesswhile in Palatine police custody.