Drew Peterson, seen here in May 2009, is charged with murdering his third wife, Kathleen Savio, and is also a suspect in the murder of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.
UPDATE: The judge in the high-profile Drew Peterson murder case ruled against declaring a mistrial on Thursday morning, after missteps by prosecutors caused the judge to halt proceedings the previous day.
Defense attorneys claimed that the prosecution was arguing the case in a way that would hinder the jury’s ruling, ABC News reported. “It’s going to be an unfair trial if you let this go on,” one of Peterson’s lawyers told Judge Edward Burmila.
But Burmila, who has become visibly upset by the prosecution’s arguments at times, denied the request. He told the court on Thursday that "the defendant’s ability to receive a fair trial is not extinguished at this time," the Associated Press reports. It was the third mistrial request he denied in as many days.
Thursday, Aug. 2, 10:17 a.m.: On just the third day of the long-awaited Drew Peterson trial, the judge is considering a motion to declare a mistrial, which could mean the accused murderer would walk free.
The motion was made on Wednesday while the prosecution was questioning a neighbor of Kathleen Savio about a .38-caliber bullet found in her driveway, suggesting it was left as a threat from Peterson. The Chicago Sun-Times reports Judge Edward Burmila, visibly angry, interrupted the prosecution to ask what they hoped to prove through the testimony, adding, "This is completely troubling."
Burmila will rule on Thursday on the defense's motion for mistrial. He could deny mistrial, or declare mistrial without prejudice, which would require the trial to begin again. If he declares a mistrial with prejudice, Peterson couldn’t be retried on the charges and would walk free. It’s an unlikely option, legal experts told the Sun-Times, but it is well within Burmila’s authority.
Wednesday’s courtroom flub is the latest hiccup in a case fraught with problems, the Associated Press notes. Prosecutors were left with no physical evidence thanks to a botched investigation of the 2004 murder, and must rely heavily on hearsay evidence, which is usually barred.
Tuesday, July 31: Drew Peterson's murder trial kicked off Tuesday, almost a full decade after the death of the former Illinois police officer's third wife.
Peterson faces a first-degree murder charge in Savio's drowning. He's also been linked to—but not charged in connection with—the 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson. After she disappeared, Peterson was charged for Savio's drowning, the Associated Press explains.
Reuters explains that at the time of Savio's death, investigators did not look for evidence of a murder and declared her to be the victim of an accident. But her body was exhumed after Stacy Peterson's disappearance, and investigators found some evidence to suggest foul play.
Because of the botched investigation into Savio's death, prosecutors will rely on supplementing the scarce physical evidence in their case against Peterson with statements made by Stacy Peterson before she vanished. But prosecutors are prohibited from telling jurors that Stacy Peterson is missing and presumed dead. They'll be limited to saying she's not available to testify.
According to the AP, prosecutors believe Peterson killed Savio because they were divorcing and he worried the financial settlement would be in her favor. They also believe Peterson killed Stacy Peterson because she knew about the first death.