The 12 jurors who sent Brian Dugan to death row for killing Jeanine Nicarico 26 years ago emerged from the DuPage County courthouse Wednesday silent and numb from the experience.
For six weeks they endured horrific descriptions of the heinous acts Dugan committed against women and small girls as well as the scores of exhibits presented by prosecutors that also depicted his crimes. The last 11 hours of their ordeal were spent debating whether to put him to death or let the 53-year-old murderer and rapist spend the remaining years of his life locked up behind bars.
Three of the seven women on the jury had to collect themselves and stop crying before they were led into the courtroom to announce their decision Wednesday afternoon, said juror Michael Euringer.
"I kept thinking to myself they kept telling us about all these crimes like kidnapping, arson, home invasion," The 79-year-old Carol Stream retiree said. "He's probably done more that we don't even know about."
The panel, though, apparently came close to issuing another life sentence to the three-time killer. Initially, the group voted 8-4 in favor of death, some jurors said.
After more discussions, the vote swung to 10 in favor of death and two for sparing Dugan's life. The jury announced it had a decision late Tuesday, and anything other than a unanimous vote would have meant a life sentence because it takes all 12 jurors to impose the death penalty.
But the group pulled back and asked for more time to deliberate before retiring for the night.
Juror Ronald Ford declined to be formally interviewed, but when asked about Tuesday's false start, he said he didn't know what happened.
"That's what everybody wants to know," Ford said. "What happened last night? You know, I don't know."
But jurors reached their final and unanimous decision after 2 p.m. Wednesday. They left the courthouse, some escorted by sheriff's deputies, without comment.
Contacted later, several jurors said they gave a lot of weight to Dugan's defense that he suffered from a brain defect that prevents him from feeling empathy or exhibit self-control. But in the end, the gravity of his misdeeds outweighed any possible malady Dugan suffered, they said.
"(Prosecutors) said he deserved the death penalty and they were able to effect that," Euringer said.
The jurors described the discussions leading up to unanimity on the death sentence as cordial and unemotional. They said they all got along well with one another and there were no personality conflicts. Those who talked about the sentence called it the "biggest decision" of their lives.
"It was a very tough decision," said juror Jill Russell.
But they said no one was pressured into making that decision.
"Everybody had to make their own decisions," Ford said. "A lot of people."
DuPage County juries are historically pro-death penalty, especially when the victim is a child.
In fact, jurors in DuPage haven't spared a murder defendant since June 22, 1998, when Levern Ward received a life sentence for the infamous Nov. 16, 1995, Addison triple murders. Members later said the four jurors who voted against death were concerned about the scant physical evidence placing Ward at the crime scene. His two co-defendants received death sentences for the crime, in which the killers snatched the unborn child of a dying mother after cutting open her womb. The woman and two of her other children were murdered.
Alternate jurors Saba Jaddi and Dan Voitik were split on the sentence.
"They spent more than 10 hours rehashing everything and they came up with the death penalty," Voitik said. "From what I knew going into deliberations I would have come to the same conclusion. He was an evil man."
Jaddi is confident the jurors "made the right decision," but isn't sure she could have made it.
"Every day, new pieces of evidence would sway you back and forth," the Naperville teacher said. "I still don't think I have my mind made up."
The group grew tight as the sentencing hearing moved along, the jurors said. They would bring baked goods from home to share with each other and in late October they treated each other with Halloween candy, Voitik said. After the verdict, several members met up for drinks, Jaddi said.
"It was a really good group of people," Jaddi said. "I think we worked well together."
But both alternates said the experience took its toll on them.
"It brought tears to my eyes sitting there that last Friday when we were dismissed after hearing all the testimony," Voitik said.
Jaddi said she's glad it's over.
"It's kind of traumatizing," she said. "I thought I was stronger than I really am."
• Staff writers Elisabeth Mistretta, Jameel Naqvi, Madhu Krishnamurthy, Robert Sanchez and Anna Marie Kukec contributed to this report.