Peterson and Vaughn are two very different trials
BY JON SEIDEL Staff Reporter email@example.com August 26, 2012 5:48PM
Christopher Vaughn, of Oswego, is on trial in Will County for the murder of his wife, Kimberly, and their children in 2007. | Will County Sheriff's Office via AP
Updated: September 28, 2012 6:12AM
Will County’s two most notorious murder defendants waited years to see their day in court. Now Drew Peterson and Christopher Vaughn are on trial at the same time, right next door to each other.
But after the first week of simultaneous testimony in the two cases, one thing is clear: These are very different trials.
Peterson is on trial for the murder of his third wife. Vaughn is charged with the murders of his wife and three small children.
Kathleen Savio, Peterson’s alleged victim, was found dead in her dry bathtub March 1, 2004. Her drowning death was ruled an accident until 2007, when Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy, disappeared and cast new suspicion on her Bolingbrook police sergeant husband. Her death wasn’t ruled a homicide until nearly four years after she was found, and Peterson’s lawyers still say there was no foul play.
But there’s no dispute three of Vaughn’s alleged victims — his children — were gunned down by one of their parents while buckled into the backseat of the family SUV. They were surrounded by children’s novels, pillows, blankets and stuffed animals. Prosecutors say Vaughn pulled the trigger. He says his wife Kimberly did it before she shot herself.
The images of the children’s bodies — 12-year-old Abigayle, 11-year-old Cassandra and 8-year-old Blake — have been flashed repeatedly in front of the jurors in the Vaughn trial. And though the photos of Kimberly are the most graphic, they all seem to cast a pall over the courtroom.
Leaving court, Vaughn’s prosecutors and defense attorneys politely turn down interview requests and walk past TV cameras. Peterson’s lawyers, meanwhile, have chuckled their way through press conferences. They’ve even been accused of acting like The Three Stooges in one early TV appearance they’ve apparently grown to regret.
Now, in another distraction, an Ohio restaurateur has been kicked out of the Peterson trial for mouthing an expletive at the defendant. Police arrested him Thursday night on a contempt charge.
Finally, there’s Peterson and Vaughn. Peterson drew attention to himself before his arrest by exhibiting bizarre behavior in front of the TV cameras. Vaughn, meanwhile, is described by his own attorney as an introvert who doesn’t try to engage anyone in conversation.
So it’s no surprise the Peterson trial has drawn most of the media attention at the Will County courthouse. Members of the public have also had to wait their turn for seats to listen to Peterson testimony — his case is the subject of a made-for-TV movie, after all. But that’s never been a problem in the Vaughn courtroom.
Lawyers in the Vaughn trial also managed to get through the first week without much conflict. The most serious disagreement seemed to be about a man who was also a witness in the Peterson trial — Illinois State Police Sgt. Robert Deel.
That could be why Vaughn’s prosecutors have already put 33 witnesses on the stand, while it took four weeks for Peterson’s jurors to hear from the same number of people. Peterson’s jurors need walking shoes — often shuttled in and out of the courtroom — while Vaughn’s jurors spend a good deal of time in their seats.
In fact, Vaughn defense attorney George Lenard told Vaughn’s judge he wanted to make sure he understood a ruling clearly last week, for that very reason.
“So the jury doesn’t have to keep going in and out like they do next door,” Lenard said.