(CHICAGO) — The murder trial of former Illinois cop Drew Peterson may be called a mistrial after the judge overseeing the case blasted prosecutors for ignoring his orders in the courtroom.
Judge Edward Burmila called a recess Tuesday afternoon to consider the request for a mistrial and allow the prosecution to come up with a reason the trial should not be stopped, according to ABC News station WLS. It is the third time in the three-week-long trial that Burmila has considered a mistrial request by the defense.
Peterson, 58, is accused of killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio. Her death was originally declared an accidental drowning after she was found dead in her bathtub.
In 2007, however, Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, vanished, and police exhumed Savio’s body as part of the investigation into Stacy’s disappearance. A new report by forensic pathologists found that Savio was murdered, and Peterson was charged with homicide.
Tuesday prosecutors in the murder case were told by Burmila not to mention a restraining order that Savio once asked for against Peterson.
One of the prosecutors then mentioned the restraining order in court, prompting Burmila to scold her in court.
The prosecutor apologized to the judge following the incident, but the defense called for a mistrial, arguing that the statement would unfairly influence the jury.
The judge will reconvene both sides Tuesday afternoon to hear the prosecution’s response to the request for mistrial before making a decision.
Burmila previously denied two requests for mistrial based on prosecutorial missteps, both stemming from the prosecution’s mention of evidence that had not been cleared yet by Burmila.
Legal wrangling over what evidence the jury is allowed to hear has played a pivotal role in the case against Peterson, as the prosecution tries to prove the murder charge by showing that Peterson intimidated his wife through actions and statements.
“So far, I think both sides have had good moments and both sides have had some tough moments. It is like any trial. When you get to week three, a little bit of fatigue sets in, so we will have to work through that. I think that the jurors will get a little bit fatigued. So hopefully we can keep it interesting,” said Steven Greenberg, one of Peterson’s attorneys.
Tuesday’s testimony also included statements from a toxicologist who processed tissue samples from Savio during the 2004 and 2007 death investigations. He testified that no drugs or alcohol were found in Savio’s system at the time of her death.
Two pathologists were scheduled to take the stand this week for the prosecution. Both of them said Savio’s death was a murder when they reexamined the body in the second autopsy. Drew Peterson’s attorneys brought in experts to say Savio’s original autopsy showed it was accidental.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Brian Vitigliano, Holly Yan and Joshua Berlinger, CNN
Sonya Hamasaki, CNN