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Four more jurors picked for Luna trial
Stacy St. Clair | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 4/4/2007

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What's new:The case now has eight jurors - half the number needed to start the trial.

What's next: Jury selection resumes this morning.

Four more jurors have been selected in the Brown's Chicken murder case, giving attorneys half the number needed to begin the trial.

The quartet joins four other panelists selected in earlier proceedings.

The jury thus far includes six men and two women. Three of the members are minorities.

Those selected Tuesday included a young mother, a man once fascinated by the O.J. Simpson trial and a city of Chicago employee who worries about the overtime pay he'll lose during the trial.

The panel will decide the fate of Juan Luna, the former Brown's Chicken & Pasta employee who police say killed five of the restaurant's workers and its two owners on Jan. 8, 1993. His high school pal James Degorski, now 34, has also been charged in connection with the slayings.

The men, who will have separate trials, have both pleaded not guilty to the crime. If convicted, they could face the death penalty.

Among Luna's jurors is a Chicago employee who works for the water department and was once accused of stealing from the city. He was acquitted of the crime at a jury trial, a fact he said makes him appreciate the principle that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

"It was a nonsense case," he said. "It was a waste of money."

The man, who admitted he would be distracted by his loss of overtime income during the trial, said he would be a fair - but tough-minded - juror. He said he does not understand the logic in giving convicted killers a life sentence instead of the death penalty.

"They shouldn't be in jail," he said. "It's just costing taxpayers money."

All four jurors tapped Tuesday indicated they support the death penalty. The young mother, who once worked at an Elgin chicken restaurant, said she would have to consider it on a case-by-case basis.

"Depending on the crime, I'd be in favor of it," she said.

The third juror selected professed an interest in the O.J. Simpson case and told the judge he had read two books on the trial. He also admitted to being interested in a trial's inner workings.

He told the attorneys from both sides that he could be a fair juror.

"I think so," he said, "but who knows?"

The fourth juror, who is familiar with the Northwest suburbs and many of the locations involved in the trial, promised Luna during the screening process that he would be open-minded.

The selected panelists will begin service April 13, when opening arguments are expected to begin. Luna, formerly of Carpentersville, currently faces 21 counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of seven people: Lynn and Richard Ehlenfeldt, Guadalupe Maldonado, Michael Castro, Thomas Mennes, Marcus Nellsen and Rico Solis.

Jury selection is slated to resume this morning.

Juan Luna