Friday, October 02, 2009


A senseless and wasteful exercise in criminal justice is playing out in Dupage County as prosecutors try to make Brian Dugan roughly the 16,000th person killed by the public authority since George Kendall was executed in the Colonies on charges of spying for Spain in 1608. Dugan’s death is sought even though he has pleaded guilty to the murder of Jeannine Nicarico in 1983, a move that generally serves to mitigate sentencing to life without parole. Executing Dugan, already serving two life sentences for similar murders, serves no judicial purpose whatsoever, but will sadly, satisfy the bloodlust of the Dupage County residents who favor capital punishment and presumably enhance the political career of DuPage County States Attorney Joe Burkett whose public persona is one of boundless support for it.

Burkett plows full speed ahead trying to orchestrate Dugan’s death even though the Nicarico case represents one of the worst cases of prosecutorial abuse in American history, in which DuPage prosecutors relentless pursued the death penalty for two hapless minority men, Rolando Cruz and Alejandro Hernandez, even though all credible evidence, including a willingness to confess to the Nicarico murder, pointed to Brian Dugan. While Burkett had no significant role in the Cruz-Hernandez trials that eventually exonerated both, as a Dupage County law enforcement employee since 1981, he had a ringside seat to the eleven year saga that ended in Dupage County paying 3.5 million dollars in civil damages to Cruz and Hernandez.

The inevitable result of prosecutorial obsession for the death penalty is the killing of innocent convicted defendants. Over one hundred death row inmates have been freed based on DNA evidence since that forensic resource has surfaced in the last decade. That fact should convince everyone that many of the nearly 16,000 Americans executed were innocent but died simply because they were unable to prove their innocence.

In cases like Dugan’s, where the actual killer will forever be removed from society, seeking the death sentence is not only barbaric, it is bankrupting. The New York Times reports that it costs Florida $51,000,000 more each year to keep their 388 death row inmates trodding the Green Mile to execution than it would if they were simply serving life sentences. California spends an additional $114,000,000 more each year for their 667 death row inmates while social services are cut in an essentially bankrupt state. North Carolina’s 43 executions since the death penalty was re-instituted in 1976 cost an average of $2,116,000 each. Prosecutors in all three states are undeterred, as their 1,228 current death row inmates verify.

Man killing his fellow man is easy and commonplace. Society shouldn’t add to this horrific toll by letting its prosecutors commit this most heinous act against one’s fellow man under the authority of the state. The difference between the defendant and the prosecutor in the Wheaton County Courthouse is not all that great. The only one that matters is that the former is no longer in the killing business while the latter is far from done.

Originally published in the Aurora Beacon News, October 1, 2009