Peterson’s lawyers withdraw mistrial motion
JOLIET, Ill. (AP) – Drew Peterson told a judge Wednesday that he wanted to withdraw a request for a mistrial, and his lawyers explained that former suburban Chicago police officer wants the current jury to decide if he killed his third wife.
Defense attorneys also asked Judge Edward Burmila to declare all hearsay evidence in the trial inadmissible – a motion the judge again denied. Testimony resumed soon after.
Prosecutors are trying to prove that Peterson, 58, killed his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004. He was charged after his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, disappeared in 2007.
Before the judge agreed to take the mistrial motion off the table, he asked Peterson to confirm that was his wish.
“Yes, your honor,” Peterson said, standing at the defense table.
Defense attorneys asked for a mistrial Tuesday after Burmila admonished prosecutors for violating his order not to mention whether Savio asked for an order of protection against Peterson. The prosecutor who mentioned the order apologized to the judge, but Peterson’s attorneys called the prosecution’s actions unfair.
But on Wednesday, as a hushed courtroom waited to hear the judge’s decision on the mistrial motion, defense attorney Joe Lopez said his team was withdrawing the request.
“We are not giving the state a practice run,” Lopez said, referring to how the state could seek to adjust their strategy at any retrial. “This is a real race and Mr. Peterson wants the world to know that he’s not afraid. He wants to keep this jury in its place.”
Some of the jurors looked exasperated Wednesday, grimacing as they were taken in and out of court half a dozen times in the morning while attorneys argued over evidence.
The case has been beset by problems since Savio was found dead in her bathroom at her suburban home. Investigators collected no physical evidence, and authorities initially ruled that Savio accidentally drowned. After Stacy Peterson vanished three years later, Savio’s body was re-examined and her death was reclassified as a homicide.
Peterson is also a suspect in Stacy Peterson’s disappearance, although he has never been charged in her case. Authorities presume she is dead, though a body has never been found.
The prosecution’s blunder Tuesday was the third in as many weeks to prompt Burmila to give serious consideration to declaring a mistrial. However, the judge in recent days had made several rulings in prosecutors’ favor, granting them permission to present hearsay evidence central to their case.
Hearsay, or statements not based on the direct knowledge of a witness, is usually not admissible in court, but Illinois passed a law in the wake of the Peterson case that allows it in certain circumstances.
Prosecutor Kathleen Patton was questioning one of the state’s most compelling witnesses Tuesday when she made her mistake.
Former police officer Teresa Kernc had just told jurors about interviewing Savio in 2002 after Peterson allegedly broke into Savio’s home in a SWAT uniform and repeatedly pushed her to the ground.
At one point, Savio allegedly told Peterson, “Go ahead and do what you came to do: Kill me,” Kernc testified.
“He said, ‘Where do you want it?’ And she said, ‘In the head.'” Kernc testified.
Peterson then allegedly told Savio to turn her head, which Savio did, Kernc said, based on what Savio told her.
“And then he said, ‘I can’t kill you,'” she told jurors. Peterson then threw a garage opener to the ground and left.
Shortly after Kernc finished telling that story, Patton turned and asked, “Did she tell you she wanted to get an order of protection?”
When jurors arrived Wednesday, Burmila told them Patton had “violated an order of the court” by mentioning an order of protection and that they should disregard the reference. He also told jurors that both sides agree Savio did not seek an order of protection in July 2002.
“You are not to consider, infer or ponder for any purpose an order of protection,” he told the jury.
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