(JOLIET, Ill.) — Drew Peterson’s attorneys marched into court this morning demanding a mistrial in the murder case against Peterson, alleging that missteps by the prosecution on Tuesday and Wednesday had irreparably tainted the jury.
“It’s going to be an unfair trial if you let this go on,” a defense attorney told Judge Edward Burmila today. Peterson is charged with killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio, and making it look like an accident in 2004.
The defense’s argument centered on testimony introduced Wednesday by a former neighbor of Peterson’s, who said without prompting that a bullet had once been found in Savio’s driveway. The prosecution said that they were simply trying to prove that Peterson had intimidated Savio prior to her death, but the defense and Burmila loudly objected to the mention of the bullet, saying that its admissibility had not been discussed in pre-trial motions and was inappropriate.
The defense asked for a mistrial immediately following the testimony about the bullet, but Burmila returned a decision in the afternoon denying the mistrial. Instead, he said he would strike the neighbor’s testimony from the court record and allow the defense to keep the cross-examination testimony on the record if they chose. He gave the attorneys Wednesday afternoon to think about it.
Today, attorneys again told Burmila that the prosecution’s pattern of mentioning evidence that had not been officially admitted into the trial was irreparably damaging to their client.
Merely throwing out the neighbor’s testimony would not “untaint the harm,” the attorneys told Burmila.
Burmila, however, denied today’s mistrial request. It was the third request for a mistrial in the three-day-old trial.
Today, the trial is expected to get back under way with the prosecution’s next witness. They have so far only called Mary and Thomas Pontarelli, neighbors who lived down the street from Savio and were the first to discover her dead in her bathtub.
Savio’s death was ruled an accident in 2004, but after Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, went missing in 2007, police exhumed Savio’s body and reexamined it. A new forensic pathologist reported that Savio’s death was actually a homicide, and Peterson was charged with murder.
Stacy Peterson, whom Drew had already begun dating while still married to Savio, vanished without a trace and has never been heard from or found.
The case against Drew Peterson is expected to hinge on whether Burmila allows certain evidence, including statements Stacy Peterson made about Savio’s death, into court record. Stacy Peterson reportedly told her minister that around the time of Savio’s death, Drew came home to their house with women’s clothing that did not belong to Stacy.
Savio also made statements to her relatives about Peterson’s alleged domestic abuse and threats which the prosecution will try to enter into evidence through hearsay testimony.
The legal wrangling over admissibility seen in the first few days of the trial is expected to continue as the prosecution presents its case. Defense attorney Joel Brodsky has told ABC News that he expects Burmila to dismiss the case after the prosecution rests due to a lack of real evidence tying Peterson to Savio’s death.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Clair Jones, FamilyShare
Jennifer Graham, Deseret News