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Slain Jeanine Nicarico’s father: Death penalty move a ‘cop out’

Jeanine Nicarico

Jeanine Nicarico

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Updated: January 13, 2011 9:59AM

Brian Dugan earned the death sentence he faces for raping and murdering 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico in 1983, the Naperville girl’s father said Tuesday.

That’s why Thomas Nicarico thinks the move by Illinois legislators to repeal the death penalty — which would spare Dugan’s life if it’s signed into law — is “the wrong thing to do.”

“He’s earned capital punishment,” Nicarico said of the 54-year-old Dugan, who was sentenced to death in 2009. “He’s earned the most severe punishment the state can give — and now the state is taking it away.”

Dugan was sentenced to die by a DuPage County jury for Jeanine’s murder, though he also was convicted of two other brutal killings.

Nicarico called the decision by legislators to abolish the death penalty “a cop-out.”

“I think it’s a mistake. I think it’s a cop-out,” Nicarico said after learning Tuesday that state senators had voted to repeal the death penalty, a move already approved by state representatives.

The death penalty should remain intact as a deterrent and as a possible punishment for the very worst offenders, he said.

“It serves a purpose. It should be on the books,” said Nicarico.

Dugan’s conviction was part of a tangled legal saga that saw two other men — Rolando Cruz and Alejandro Hernandez — get convicted and sentenced to death before ultimately being exonerated. The case was one of the many that led then-Gov. George Ryan to put a moratorium on the death penalty in 2000.

Former death row inmate Rolando Cruz also favors keeping the death penalty.

“It’s sad that there’s a death penalty in this society that we exist in right now; unfortunately, we are forced to have that as a last means tool to attempt to decrease the outrageously increasing numbers of murders in the United States,” Cruz said. “The problem we’re having is the implementation.”

Cruz, 47, was twice convicted and sentenced to death for the 1983 rape and murder of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico. He was acquitted and later pardoned. Years earlier, though, Brian Dugan, who was already in jail for raping and killing another girl and a woman, admitted to the crime. Dugan plead guilty to the crime in 2009.

He said he and other former death row inmates should be allowed one-on-one audiences with Gov. Quinn to discuss the issue.

“I think the state government in Illinois owes me that opportunity and owes all of us former death row inmates. The government and high courts and joint committees owe us the opportuntity to speak in front of those who made those laws.”

Cruz, who is rearing three young children in Wisconsin where he is completing a degree in psychology, working and playing in a pool league, said he and other former death row inmates have been used as pawns of anti-death penalty groups. He said he and other inmates have received small stipends of about $100 per appearance.

But cases can be made for the punishments, he said, citing last week’s shooting in Tucson as an example.

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