After more than twenty years since allegedly admitting to the murder of Jeanine Nicarico, we can bet that Brian Dugan would again be willing to provide details of how he kidnapped, sodomized and bludgeoned to death the 10-year-old Naperville schoolgirl provided that the DuPage County criminal justice system was equally willing to spare him from the lethal injection.
Meanwhile, unfazed by the negative publicity surrounding the system's previous handling of this double-digit -old case, DuPage County State's Attorney Joseph Birkett seems ready to stage another prosecutorial charade by declaring, as he announced charges against the convicted killer, that he will be "exposing" Dugan to the death penalty.
This legal move may be a plus for the prosecutor's political aspirations, who as a slated Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, announced he is determined to bring to an end the moratorium against the death penalty declared by former Illinois Gov. George Ryan. However, it will also end up costing the taxpayers of Illinois millions of dollars more than the many millions we have already wasted courtesy of his predecessor, former Illinois Attorney General James Ryan.
Between 1984 and 1994, then DuPage County State's Attorney Jim Ryan attempted to put Rolando Cruz to death not once but three times for a crime he did not commit and we, the taxpayers of Illinois , quietly footed the bill.
The DuPage County criminal justice system first blew their chances at prosecuting Dugan to the fullest extent of the law in 1983 when the late Naperville Chief of Police, James Teal, rightly insisted -as he told a few members of the coalition when we met him at a fundraiser for Rolando Cruz and Alex Hernandez- that law enforcement should have focused their efforts on "the sexual predator profile, preferably a white young male and a loner." In the early seventies -actually since 1972- Dugan was already known in DuPage and surrounding counties as an arsonist, a burglar and as an incipient sexual predator.
One year later, former DuPage Deputy Sheriff John Sam warned those in charge of the investigation that Cruz, Hernandez and Steven Buckley, the three men originally convicted for the Nicarico crimes, were not the right men and "that the killer was out there and would kill again" -which he did, twice, murdering Donna Shnorr in 1984 and Melissa Ackerman in 1985.
Birkett's predecessor, Jim Ryan, was handed yet another chance to prosecute Dugan in 1987, a year and a half after the convicted murderer first hypothetically spoke about his implication in the Nicarico case. (See "Documents" on this web site) Former Illinois State Police Commander Ed Cisowski, at Jim Ryan's personal request, had just concluded his independent probe of Dugan's assertions about the crime, and he too, had no doubt that it was Dugan "and Dugan alone, who kidnapped, raped and killed Jeanine Nicarico."
Instead of taking Cisowski's findings seriously and correcting the injustices against Cruz, Hernandez and Buckley in 1985, Jim Ryan allowed the case to drag on for ten long and expensive years.
Besides blowing their chances at prosecuting the right man sooner, the DuPage County criminal justice system -including Birkett- not only have repeatedly attempted to put to death innocent men but have never apologized for their errors and continue, even to this day, to smear those wrongfully convicted by having many people-including the Nicaricos-believe that the vindicated men were guilty and escaped punishment.
When in 1999, Cruz, Hernandez and Buckley were paid a meager $3.5 million by the DuPage County board of trustees in compensation for their incarceration, Birkett, already DuPage County state's attorney, publicly decried that the three "may have been involved" in the Nicarico crimes.
Birkett started working for the DuPage County state's attorney's office in 1983, fresh out of law school. When he inherited the Nicarico case from his predecessors he continued to speak and act like them, casting ugly shadows of guilt over Cruz, Hernandez and Buckley while defusing the mounting DNA evidence that in 1995 started to support Dugan's guilt and that in 2002 became "scientific" evidence.
Yet, when in November 2005 he announced charges against Dugan, the DuPage County state's attorney did not discard the possibility that he might try to involve "others" in this already convoluted case. Before speculating about such a legal scenario, Birkett should be warned that when raping and murdering Melissa Ackerman and Donna Schnorr, Dugan acted alone. Thanks to the Coalition for Justice, on October 9, 1995, all local TV stations in Chicago were given the first opportunity to broadcast Dugan's confession to the Nicarico crimes under hypnosis, which they aired repeatedly throughout the day. Its viewing publicly exposed Dugan as the sole perpetrator of the kidnapping, rape and murder of Jeanine Nicarico.
Birkett's timing of his announcement to convene the first Grand Jury to indict Dugan is also highly questionable because it came on June 20, 2005, a week to the day after Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed into law DNA legislation that would independently allow the state to secure a sample from Dugan and test it against the Nicarico case sample kept in the national computer of DNA profiles of unsolved crimes -provided one is still there. If so, it is obvious that Dugan's new sample will match beyond a shadow of a doubt the Nicarico sample in the database; therefore, this legislation made it impossible for Birkett to keep Dugan under wraps so he [Birkett] can go on "dotting the i's and crossing the t's" forever.
But even if the new DNA was available and could be used as evidence, it would only show Dugan's participation in Jeanine Nicarico's rape -not in her abduction or murder. And even if Dugan was sentenced to the lethal injection, there is no guarantee that he will ever be executed due to his age and to an appeal process that will keep his case on a legal merry-go-round for years to come.
So let us replace the Coalition's petition with the following pledge:
We, as fiscally responsible taxpayers, are clear that seeking the death penalty against Dugan is nothing more than an expensive public relations campaign designed to boost Joseph Birkett's chances to enter the big leagues of Illinois politics.
We, as mindful voters, regardless of our political affiliation, are aware that Dugan's death sentence is no longer the pledge of a DuPage County state's attorney. It has been shaped into Birkett's campaign promise to end the death penalty moratorium in Illinois , historically an issue of little or no relevance for the office of lieutenant governor which he is seeking.
Therefore, "We, the people," demand that Birkett either plea bargain with Dugan or let an impartial and outside prosecutor decide a case that for almost twenty three years has, at best, embarrassed those who have claimed to be in the business of seeking justice for Jeanine Nicarico
Between now and March 26, send this pledge in writing or by fax to:
DuPage County State 's Attorney Joseph Birkett
(Republican candidate for Illinois Lieutenant Governor)
503 W. County Farm Road
Wheaton , IL 60187
Phone: (630) 407-8000
Fax: (630) 407-8151
Continue to convey the message between March 27 and November 7, 2006 if Birkett wins the nomination as the GOP candidate for Illinois lieutenant governor.
Also, voice your opinion by writing on this issue to your local newspaper.