Jacob Nodarse admitted he pursued an insanity defense in hope of avoiding prison after he fatally shot three members of a Darien family, but said he would have agreed to lethal injection.
"I would have taken the needle immediately if they had offered it to me," the 26-year-old said Tuesday, his third and final day of testifying in the murder trial of co-defendant Johnny Borizov.
Nodarse said his attorney told him he might be able to raise an insanity defense based on the results of a psychological assessment after the March 2010 slayings of Jeffrey and Lori Kramer and their 20-year-old son, Michael, who was once a close friend of the shooter.
He testified he was "a little disappointed" when he was not found insane at the time of the killings.
"I'd rather be in a hospital than a prison," Nodarse said. "I think anyone would be."
Nodarse said he later had a change of heart about the death penalty and was relieved when it was taken off the table. "If they would have given it to me right away, I would have taken it," he said.
Nodarse, who claims Borizov conned him into the slayings, pleaded guilty but mentally ill to one count of murder in 2011. In exchange for his testimony and plea, prosecutors agreed to seek between 45 years and life in prison when Nodarse would have faced mandatory life if convicted of killing two or more people. He has not yet been sentenced.
The death penalty was abolished in Illinois in 2011 but existed under moratorium when Borizov and Nodarse were first charged. In 2010, prosecutors opted not to seek the ultimate punishment for either man after reviewing evidence and consulting with the Kramer family.
"I still believe I'm going to get life anyway," Nodarse told jurors.
The plea agreement was the subject of extensive cross-examination by the defense, which has sought to highlight Nodarse's history of mental illness and attack his credibility as a witness.
The defense also elicited testimony that Nodarse had refused his prescribed medication as recently as Monday.
Nodarse testified he never discussed the murder plot with anyone other than Borizov.
But jurors heard from a friend who said Nodarse did talk about Borizov, describing him as a "big shot" with "connections to organized crime" and "a lot of influence."
The friend, Vincent Schmitz of Willowbrook, said Nodarse once arranged a meeting because Borizov was looking for someone with computer skills. Schmitz said Borizov asked whether he could hack into people's computers and set up electronic wiretapping.
"He (Borizov) said he had other people working for him and he could use a guy like me in his crew," Schmitz, 23, testified, adding he never followed up on the offer.
"I didn't want to be involved with Johnny Borizov," he said.
Testimony resumes Wednesday.