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Following a 90-minute hearing this morning, the jury that convicted James Degorski of seven counts of first degree murder in the 1993 slayings of seven workers at a Palatine Brown's Chicken & Pasta is currently deliberating whether he should receive the death penalty.
The six-man, six-woman jury began deliberating about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday. To find Degorski eligible, they have to unanimously agree that Degorski was 18 or older at the time of the crimes. His birth certificate indicates he was born Aug. 20, 1972, making him 20 at the time of the murders.
They also had to agree to at least one of the three following propositions: that he was guilty of two or more murders; that those murders were committed in the course of another felony - in this case, armed robbery; and that the murders were carried out in a cold and calculating manner.
During the eligibility hearing Wednesday morning, prosecutors painted a vivid portrait of the latter. They reminded jurors that Degorski and co-defendant Juan Luna wore old clothes and shoes which they later discarded. They recalled Degorski's admission that they wore gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints and that he mopped up after the murders.
The state also told jurors that the killers showed up armed with a knife, a gun and pockets full of bullets supplied by Degorski. and that the men enlisted high school friend Eileen Bakalla to assist their getaway; and that they had no intention to leave any witnesses.
"They had the intent that nobody was going to walk out of there alive," said Assistant State's Attorney Lou Longhitano. "This guy's not just cold, he's subzero."