Convicted murderer of seven awarded nearly $500K in civil rights case

Lawyer: "It gave me a lot of hope that this jury had acted so consistently following the law and accepting the principle that regardless of your status in society, you are entitled to be free of unjustified violence at the hands of the government and people with power and the duty to protect you.”
By JC Sevcik  |  March 10, 2014 at 4:15 PM
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SEATTLE, March 10 (UPI) -- James Degorski, a man convicted of murdering seven people, has been awarded $451,000 in a civil lawsuit against a Cook County Guard.

In 1993, Degorski and accomplice Juan Luna murdered seven restaurant workers at Brown’s Chicken and Pasta in suburban Chicago during a botched robbery attempt, leaving their bodies in the freezer.

The crime went unsolved for nearly a decade, until 2002 when Degorski was arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison.

According to his attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, Degorski was beaten in an unprovoked attack by guard Thomas Wilson shortly after arriving at Cook County prison in 2002. Degorski suffered fractures to his cheek and eye socket that required metal plates to be surgically inserted in his face. Wilson maintains he was acting in self-defense.

Jury members in the civil suit who awarded Degorski $451K were told he is a convicted murderer but not told the details of his crime.

Family members of Degorski’s victims expressed their outrage. Bonjean expressed sympathy for the families but said the case is not about Degorski’s past crimes; it is about his constitutional rights as a prisoner.

“I understand why [the victims’ families] are upset, but at the end of the day [Degorski] is being punished for the crime he was convicted of,” she said. “If we accept that there is a sliding scale on whose constitutional rights should be protected and whose should not, we are going down a scary path.”

[Chicago Tribune] [ABC News]

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