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Judge to decide on release of details in Brown's killings
By Laura Janota | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 5/29/2008 4:33 PM

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First published: December 8, 1995

Details, details and more details - every good lawyer wants them to build a good case. But nearly three years after seven people were killed at a Brown's Chicken & Pasta restaurant in Palatine, few telling details have emerged about the heinous crime.

It's the way investigators want it, particularly since the case remains unsolved. But it's also a problem for Brown's Chicken & Pasta, which contends it is unable to fully prepare a defense against a civil lawsuit filed by the family of one of the victims, Michael Castro.

The suit, filed last January, charges the fast-food company didn't provide adequate security, which the Castros believe could have contributed to the occurrence of the crime.

On Wednesday, a Cook County judge said he would decide next month what - if any - information Brown's is entitled to see as the company prepares a defense for a civil trial that could be at least three years off.

''We have to know how these people died. How was access to the building gained? What did the inside of the store look like?" said Bruce Wall, an attorney representing Brown's.

''We don't have a single document right now," Wall said.

Such information also could be useful for the Castro family's case against Brown's, said Terrence E. Leonard, an attorney representing the family.

So far, the village of Palatine has succeeded in stopping anyone but investigators from seeing anything.

''I think the information is unnecessary for them to make their case," said Glenn C. Sechen, an attorney representing the village. ''You've got to balance the interest of the public to solve this crime against whatever right Brown's may have to see the information."

If placed on top of one another, several piles of investigative reports, thousands of documents, photos and other evidence would extend from floor to ceiling in an average room, according to Palatine officials.

The information has been locked in a special evidence room hooked up to an alarm system that immediately warns Palatine Police Department central dispatchers in case of unlawful entry, court documents show.

Contained in the reports are references to witnesses and informants as well as details from grand jury proceedings. Police don't want anyone to get their hands on the information because of fears it will compromise the investigation and possibly damage chances for future prosecution in the case, Sechen said.

''I think it's much more important to get the killer or killers off the street than it is for them to see this information for a lawsuit."

However, Wall believes if Brown's doesn't get access to the information, then the lawsuit lodged against the company should be dismissed.

''We don't want anything that would jeopardize the investigation. We want objective we can't get this information, we can't properly address the allegations and the lawsuit ought to be dismissed."

Leonard, however, believes the suit should carry on regardless of whether the courts force police to give out any or all information.

''I think we need the information too, but if we don't get it that doesn't mean the case should be dismissed," he said.