INNOCENCE: Illinois Defendant Pleads Guilty to Crime That Sent Two Innocent Men to Death Row

On July 28, Brian Dugan pleaded guilty to the rape and murder of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico in Illinois 25 years ago. Two other men, Rolando Cruz, (pictured) and Alejandro Hernandez, were originally charged with the murder and were sentenced to death. They were eventually exonerated in 1995 after numerous trials. At the pleading, DuPage County State’s Attorney Joseph Birkett acknowledged that there had never been any physical evidence pointing to the two men who were wrongly convicted. Dugan was not promised a life sentence in exchange for his plea and still faces a death sentence from a jury in the fall. He admitted that he alone was responsible for the murder. As early as 1985, Dugan confessed his sole responsibility for the crime, but the prosecution continued its case against Cruz and Hernandez. The case contributed to a huge upheaval of Illinois’ death penalty system, finally resulting in the commutation of all death row inmates in 2003 and to a moratorium on executions that continues to the present time.

(A. Barnum, “Dugan pleads guilty to killing Jeanine Nicarico,” Chicago BreakingNews Center, July 28, 2009). See Innocence.