Peterson jury selection heads into 2nd day
JOLIET, Ill. (AP) – A judge and attorneys are moving swiftly toward seating a jury in Drew Peterson’s murder trial by removing pool members who saw a TV movie about the case or came to court already convinced he’s guilty.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys say they expect a full jury to be in place by the end of Tuesday – the second day of jury selection. Eight were selected Monday, meaning just eight more are needed to impanel 12 jurors and four alternates.
The 58-year-old former suburban Chicago police officer is charged with killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004. Her death was ruled accidental until police began investigating the 2007 disappearance his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson.
After a jury is chosen, attorneys will have until next Tuesday to prepare their opening statements. Prosecutors are expected to call their first witnesses later that same day.
In one-by-one questioning, defense attorneys have asked prospective jurors if they watched the 2011 cable TV movie starring Rob Lowe as Peterson. They also have asked them whether they have been through acrimonious divorces.
Savio’s body was found in a dry bathtub in her home, her hair soaked in blood, just before her divorce settlement with Peterson was to be finalized. He allegedly feared the settlement with Savio would wipe him out financially.
More than 200 prospective jurors were summoned to hear the long-delayed Peterson case in 2009 and were instructed at the time to meticulously avoid all media coverage about it.
Most of the 40 potential jurors questioned Monday said they had heard at least snippets of news about Peterson over the three years, but the majority insisted that whatever they heard wouldn’t preclude them from giving him a fair trial.
Asked if she was able to avoid seeing intense media coverage of the case, one woman later struck from the pool said, “It’s right there in front of you – it’s hard not to (see it).”
Three people who said they watched the entire TV movie – in apparent violation of court instructions – also were dismissed. One was a professional plumber who said he went out of his way to watch the movie.
“He looked guilty,” the man said, referring to the conclusion he drew from the movie. In his questionnaire, he also wrote that he spoke to his girlfriend about the movie later.
“We discussed how he done it,” he wrote, referring to how they thought Peterson had committed the killings.
Among the eight jurors selected was a Polish-born woman who said Monday was her birthday, a letter carrier and a man who said the U.S. “criminal justice system is the best in the world.”
Those struck from the pool Monday included a police detective, a woman who said her children once played in the same school band as one of Peterson’s sons, and a chemical engineer who said she had heard people in her office saying Peterson was guilty.
Peterson, who shaved his trademark mustache for the trial, has appeared fully engaged in the jury-selection process – studying potential jurors as they answer questions and making suggestions to his attorneys about questions to ask.
Defense attorney Joel Brodsky said Peterson, a nearly 30-year veteran officer in the same county where he is being tried, knew people in the area better than anyone on his defense team.
“We have the ultimate jury consultant,” Brodsky said. “We’ll use that knowledge in selecting a jury.”
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