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From CHICAGO, Illinois, twelve jurors who convicted a man of killing seven people at a suburban restaurant 14 years ago narrowly recommended he spend the rest of his life in prison rather than be sent to death row.

All but one of the jurors wanted to see Juan Luna receive the death penalty, but a unanimous vote would have been needed Thursday to recommend capital punishment.

Luna, 33, stood up and bear-hugged a defense attorney, and he and his relatives cried as the decision was read.

His younger brother was emotional as family members left the courtroom.

“I don’t think anybody should ever die, including my brother,” Jorge Luna said. Other family members hugged lead defense attorney Clarence Burch as he walked out.

Burch said his client would appeal his conviction.

“He believes that when all the facts come out that he’ll be vindicated at a later date,” he said.

Juror John Polishak, who voted in favor of the death penalty, said each juror had to live with his or her decision, so once it became clear there was not going to be a unanimous vote, “We decided we’re not going to press the issue.”

During closing arguments earlier Thursday, lawyers portrayed Luna — convicted last week in the execution-style killings at Brown’s Chicken and Pasta restaurant in Palatine — as both a loving father who should live and a cold-blooded killer who should die for his crimes.

“The same blood is flowing through his heart and veins that is flowing through ours,” Burch told jurors. “Before you can kill him, he has to be less than a human.”

But prosecutor Richard Devine countered that Luna willingly took part in the shooting and stabbing deaths.

“Now it’s time to make the defendant responsible for those choices,” he said. “These are murders without reason. These are murders in the coldest blood.”

Juan Maldonado, the 28-year-old son of victim Guadalupe Maldonado, expressed disappointment in the jury’s decision, but took some solace in Luna’s life term.

“He’s gonna stay forever in prison, either way he’s gonna pay in there,” Maldonado said outside court.

Ann Ehlenfeldt, the sister of victim Richard Ehlenfeldt, said she was angered by defense statements Thursday that she felt trivialized the murders.

“For the first time in my life, I walked away hoping that he would get the death penalty, and I hate myself for that,” she said.

Prosecutors said Luna, then 18, walked into the restaurant at closing time January 8, 1993, with high school friend James Degorski and shot and stabbed the victims during a robbery that netted less than $2,000.

Killed were restaurant owners Ehlenfeldt and his wife, Lynn, and employees Maldonado, 46, Marcus Nellsen, 31, Michael Castro, 16, Thomas Mennes, 32, and Rico Solis, 17. Their bodies were found in a walk-in cooler and freezer.

Degorski has pleaded not guilty to the murders and will be tried separately. A trial date has not been set.
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Thank you, The Associated Press.
*************************************************************************************II remember when this happened…they herded the people into the walk in like cattle and slauttered them…pray for their souls, they will need it!

~The Baby Boomer Queen~

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