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Key elements of the prosecution
By Joseph Ryan | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 5/9/2007

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From the beginning of the case against Juan Luna, perhaps the most condemning evidence against him has been his own words.

"Everyone get down on the floor and no one will get hurt," Luna says he told the Brown's Chicken employees in a videotaped confession played before the jury last month.

In that 43-minute video -- splashed by prosecutors on a big screen -- Luna details the Jan. 8, 1993, killings, with some of his comments corroborating key evidence and witness testimony.

"They were yelling, 'Don't shoot us. Please don't shoot us,'" Luna says of the victims shot to death in the restaurant's walk-in freezer. "Their hands were shaking, too."

The police recorded the statement in May 2002 after arresting Luna and his high school pal Jim Degorksi in connection with the killings. Degorski, who like Luna maintains his innocence, is being tried separately. Both could face the death penalty if convicted.

Bolstering their case, the prosecution also has DNA and palm print evidence tying Luna to the crime scene.

The DNA comes from two chicken bones left in a trash can that contained what prosecutors say was the last meal ordered the night of the murders. The palm print was found on a napkin in the same garbage bag as the bones. Luna confessed to police to ordering and partially eating a meal before the killings.

Moreover, two of Luna and Degorski's old high school friends have testified the men bragged about the killings shortly after committing them. Some of their testimony matches details in Luna's confession, such as how he slit owner Lynn Ehlenfeldt's throat as she was ordered to open the store safe.

"With everybody going all wild and crazy, I guess I just got caught up in it and cut her throat," Luna says on the tape, making a slashing motion across his neck with a pen. "She was laying on the floor. She started gargling and ran out of breath."

As for motive, prosecutors say Luna and Degorski killed the seven people partly to rob the store, but more importantly "to do something big," which is what they allegedly told their friends Anne Lockett and Eileen Bakalla.

During a near fortnight of often gory prosecution testimony, jurors have been told the DNA and palm print irrefutably connect Luna to the crime. Lockett and Bakalla told the panel they knew who committed the crimes for nearly a decade. But perhaps most damaging of all, Luna himself told the jury what happened on a big screen.

"A lot of people have been hurt by this, and my family is going to be hurt by this also," Luna says in the confession. "Well, I know I can't change time no more and I can't bring people back. I feel so sad and I'm so sorry."

What the jury will have to consider

The defense's case