Eight people chosen so far for Drew Peterson jury
BY JON SEIDEL AND DAN ROZEK Staff Reporters July 23, 2012 9:28AM
Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow (center) arrives for jury selection for Drew Peterson at the Will County Courthouse Monday, July 23, 2012, in Joliet. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 25, 2012 6:03AM
A few saw the movie.
A couple peeked at the headlines — they couldn’t help it.
But most members of Drew Peterson’s potential jury pool said they could be fair to the former Bolingbrook police sergeant finally going on trial on charges he murdered his third wife, 40-year-old Kathleen Savio. By Monday night, eight had been chosen to serve on the jury.
Peterson’s long-awaited trial began Monday despite fretting over the possibility of yet another last-minute delay. Judge Edward Burmila chose not to rule on whether prosecutors can use some disputed hearsay statements to convict Peterson, heading off a potential pre-trial appeal.
Instead he’ll let Peterson’s lawyers object to them during the trial, which begins with opening statements July 31.
That settled, Burmila’s bailiff led 39 potential jurors into his courtroom. And the introductions began.
“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,” Peterson said, joining his attorneys in their greeting.
“I’m Mr. Peterson.”
Finally out of the blue prison jumpsuit and shackles he’s worn to recent pre-trial hearings, Peterson blended in with his attorneys, looking clean-shaven in a gray suit, blue shirt and blue-and-gray tie. He listened closely to the people who could decide his fate. They said it wasn’t always easy avoiding coverage of his case as a judge told them to in 2009.
“It was hard to get away from because it was everywhere,” one juror said.
One man said he saw Sunday’s Sun-Times cover story on Peterson. A woman said she heard jury selection was about to begin — and something about a bathtub.
A New Lenox man said he watched the Lifetime movie about Peterson and said he thought it made the ex-Bolingbrook cop look smart — and guilty. Still, he said he thought he could be fair if chosen to sit on the jury.
“You’ve got to think it’s acting,” he said. “You don’t know what was said or done.”
Lawyers questioned them slowly, and into the night.
Of those picked for the jury Monday, at least two live in Bolingbrook. One has a brother in the military and another served in the Army National Guard.
One said she made her husband read the newspaper first so she could avoid Peterson coverage, and another said, “I’m Catholic, and I don’t believe you should take human life.”
One man is a recent Bolingbrook High School graduate, and he now studies broadcasting at Columbia College in Chicago.
The judge had hoped to have about 40 potential jurors out of the 200-member jury pool questioned each day of this week. But Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, leading the prosecution of Peterson, said he thinks a full jury could be seated on Tuesday. Peterson’s lawyers agreed.
On Monday, the lineup of potential jurors included students, retirees, divorcees, immigrants, carpenters, cops and veterans. Some have had run-ins with the law.
Some watch “Dancing With The Stars” or “Modern Family.” Some don’t watch TV. One man said he gets his news through “hearsay.”
They seemed to bond over their shared experience while cloistered away in another courtroom. Roars of laughter and a performance of “Happy Birthday” spilled into the hallway outside.
But at one point they might have shared too much information. The judge had to call them into his courtroom and remind them not to tell each other about the questions being asked by Peterson’s lawyers and prosecutors.
Though it appeared defense attorneys might try to dismiss the entire group, they didn’t pursue it after Burmila gave his warning.
Peterson is accused of drowning Savio in the midst of their ugly divorce. Her body was found March 1, 2004, in her dry bathtub. Authorities first ruled her death an accident. Later Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy, disappeared. Investigators exhumed Savio’s body, autopsied it again and ruled her death a homicide.
The case has gotten sensational treatment in the national media. And though most jurors said they could set aside what they’ve heard and weigh the evidence brought into the courtroom, a few weren’t ready to make that promise.
One potential juror said she “may have” formed an opinion about Peterson already, based on “things that I heard and questions that I have.”
Another paused for a long time before she conceded to the judge she couldn’t ignore what she’s heard about the Peterson case.
And a third said she just didn’t know how she’d react once she’s seated in that jury box.
“It’s real hard to control your emotions,” she said.