Five months ago, a jury was deadlocked on whether Darren Denson stabbed a man in the heart with his girlfriend and their infant son in the same bed as Denson was trying to rob the Elgin apartment of $30,000 in drug money.
Friday night it took three hours to convict Denson of first-degree murder, home invasion and armed robbery in the Feb. 10, 2003, slaying.
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Denson, 39 and formerly of Chicago, also is serving a 50-year sentence for a murder and armed robbery in Milwaukee. Now he will face a mandatory life sentence at his next court appearance May 26.
Assistant State's Attorney Greg Sams said he and his staff interviewed jurors after the November mistrial.
"I took that input to heart," said Sams, noting the second trial included testimony from Denson's girlfriend about how he was known as "The Jamaican" on the street for his heritage, accent and short deadlocks.
This was in addition to cell phone records, ballistics and Denson's tacit admission that he drove a cream-colored, older-model getaway car that tied him to the scene.
Armed with a knife and with two others who had guns, Denson broke into a west-side apartment to rob Kyle Juggins, 32, of $30,000.
The jury agreed that Denson stabbed Juggins in the chest in a bed he shared with his girlfriend. Juggins fired a shot at the intruders, but it missed and hit a wall before someone else shot him in the head. No money was found.
Defense attorney John Paul Carroll argued that Juggins' girlfriend saw three people in the dimly lit apartment, but none was as tall as the 6-foot-5 Denson. He added that one of Denson's accomplices wanted payback because his girlfriend slept with Juggins' friend.
"They're on a revenge mission," Carroll said.
Carroll also argued that two of the state's witnesses, Taurean Giles and Kineta Bell, who struck deals of 20 years in prison and probation after about nine months in prison, respectively, in exchange for their testimony, were tainted as they had weeks after the murder to get their stories straight and pin the crime on Denson.
Bell, phone records showed, even called a radio station to request a song during an exchange of phone calls around the time of the murder.
"You don't have to like these witnesses. You just have to take what they say and compare it to the evidence," Sams told the jury.
Prosecutors had previously indicated they would pursue the death penalty against Denson.
But with Gov. Pat Quinn's decision last month to abolish capital punishment, prosecutors took their intention to seek the death penalty off the table for Denson and will for four other cases, three of which have not gone to trial.
The fourth 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.