Convicted Murderer Awarded Large Sum, Stirs Debate

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It appears the controversy surrounding convicted murder James Degorski doesn’t end with his terrible crime and eventual sentencing in 2009. Responsible for seven murders in 1993, Degorski’s name is once again in the news after he was awarded a large sum of money following a court case regarding alleged abuse in prison.

This court ruling has been criticized for a number of reasons, with the most prominent being that no one wants to see a convict get rich and receive more luxurious treatment. This notorious criminal and his newly acquired wealth have garnered media attention and raised some eyebrows in regard to the way our legal system works.


For anyone who is unfamiliar with Degorski or his crime, the incident occurred in 1993 and is commonly referred to as the “Brown’s Chicken massacre.” An attempted robbery by Degorski and his accomplice ended in horrific fashion as seven Brown’s Chicken employees were murdered.

The case would go unsolved for nearly nine years, making it one of the most high-profile unsolved murder cases in Illinois’ history. It was finally closed thanks to new evidence brought forward by Degorski’s ex-girlfriend connecting him to the murders.

Current Case

The case currently stirring debate in the media involves alleged abuse suffered by Degorski in 2002. Degorski accused jail guard Thomas Wilson of punching him in the face and breaking his cheekbone following his arrest. The court ruled in Degorski’s favor, awarding him $451,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

While Degorski’s attorney described the ruling as a victory for civil rights, it leaves many others walking away with a bad taste in their mouth. Some might even say that Degorski’s attorney needs a mental disability attorney himself to assess his mental status. In particular, the fact that the jury was not given any details of Degorski’s previous crime caused people to take issue. If the jury had been informed of Degorski’s violent history, it could have been a factor in determining their ruling.


From an objective standpoint this case is a no-brainer. If someone is assaulted, they’re a victim and in theory deserve the reward granted to them by the court’s ruling. The problem is that it’s pretty difficult to have an unbiased perspective when to comes to dealing with a notorious murderer.

I would agree that the prison guard’s actions were out of line from a legal perspective, as law in the United States doesn’t condone that type of abuse. In this instance Degorski was wrongly dealt with, but at the same time the compensation he will receive seems unwarranted. Scolding the prison guard and making a statement about civil rights is one thing, but making a violent criminal wealthy is another.

In terms of the money, it doesn’t seem right that a prison inmate should be able to sit on a small fortune while taxpayers fund his living expenses. I would have to agree with Wilson’s attorney in his quest to ensure Degorski doesn’t ever see any of his award. Rather, this attorney wishes to reallocate it to pay for Degorski’s living expenses, an idea that most people would likely see as a result that’s easier to stomach.

Photo credit: SalFalko via photopin cc

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Courtney Gordner is a blogger/journalist who loves writing about anything and everything! You can read more from her on her blog,
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