The retrial of Darren Denson for a 2003 murder in Elgin began Monday, with prosecutors arguing that the former Chicago man wanted in on a plan to rob a drug dealer of $30,000.
Denson is the first murder defendant in Kane County to stand trial since Gov. Pat Quinn abolished the death penalty last month.
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Prosecutors had previously indicated they would pursue the death penalty against the 39-year-old Denson, who also is serving a 50-year sentence for a murder and robbery in Milwaukee,
But with Quinn's decision last month, Kane County prosecutors will take their intention to seek the death penalty off the table for Denson and four other cases, three of which have not gone to trial.
The other case involves 24-year-old Hector Mauricio, who pleaded guilty to killing Roscoe Ebey, 83, in 2007. Mauricio is due in court this month and could get life in prison.
Denson's first trial in November 2010 ended in a hung jury after deliberations spanned two days.
Monday, Assistant State's Attorney Greg Sams said in his opening arguments that Denson, armed with a long knife, and two accomplices who had guns, went to the apartment of Kyle Juggins on Feb. 10, 2003, on Elgin's near west side in search of drug money.
Sams said Denson heard through his girlfriend that another dealer carried as much as $30,000 on him and the trio thought the dealer was at Juggins' apartment.
Denson is accused of stabbing Juggins on a bed he shared with his girlfriend and their 15-month-old son before someone else shot Juggins in the head.
Sams said Denson admitted to using a cell phone and driving a cream-colored, older model Chevy Caprice the night of the murder. Testimony from his two conspirators also will prove Denson stabbed Juggins in the heart, Sams said.
But defense attorney John Paul Carroll argued that the state's witnesses, Taurean Giles and Kineta Bell, reached plea deals of 20 years in prison and probation, respectively, in exchange for their testimony in the case.
"The three of them decided to pick a fall guy," Carroll said.
Carroll also noted that Juggins' girlfriend told police she saw a stocky silhouette in the hallway and bumped into two other intruders, who were both around her height of 5-foot-3. Denson is about 6-foot-5, Carroll said.
The trial is expected to run late into the week and will resume Wednesday.