Top moments at the Drew Peterson trial as the end draws near
BY DAN ROZEK Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org September 3, 2012 7:28PM
MICHAEL R. SCHMIDT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER State police Lt. Carl Anderson (left) almong with another investigator escort Drew Peterson into District 5 State Police headquarters Thursday evening. Peterson was arrested during a traffic stop and charged with the March 2004 murder of his third wife Kathleen Savio.
Updated: October 5, 2012 6:13AM
Drew Peterson is ready for whatever verdict jurors reach, his attorneys said Tuesday.
“He hopes he’s going home to his children soon, but he’s prepared for whatever happens,” attorney Joel Brodsky said.
Drew Peterson’s five-week murder trial featured moments of wrenching drama, hours of tedious legal arguments and even jurors who color-coordinated their clothing.
Defense attorneys on three occasions sought mistrials. Two witnesses described alleged conversations with Peterson’s missing fourth wife, Stacy, in which she incriminated her husband in the death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio.
Surprising outbursts of laughter sometimes rocked the Joliet courtroom, which was usually packed with media and spectators — including a wealthy restaurant owner arrested for mouthing a two-word obscenity at Peterson.
Brodsky said co-counsel Joe Lopez will stress during his closing argument that prosecutor’s simply haven’t proved Peterson guilty.
“They haven’t even come close to presenting a modicum of proof,” Brodsky said Tuesday.
With jurors poised to begin deliberating as soon as Tuesday, here’s a list of the 10 most memorable moments from Peterson’s trial.
Defense witness says Drew did it
Defense attorneys called divorce attorney Harry Smith as their second-to-last witness because they wanted him to undermine damaging hearsay testimony from Stacy Peterson.
It didn’t work out. Smith told jurors that Stacy, in a 2007 phone call, said she knew Drew had killed Savio — and could offer details about how he allegedly carried out the murder.
Stacy vanished a few days after the call. Smith was the only witness to testify Peterson allegedly killed his third wife.
Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, who had tried unsuccessfully to call Smith as a prosecution witness, exulted outside the courtroom that his testimony was “a gift from God.” Legal experts following the trial couldn’t understand why defense lawyers made Smith testify knowing he likely would offer the explosive claim. “It’s inexplicable,” a retired judge said of the defense tactic.
Even Judge Edward Burmila on Friday pronounced it “unusual” that a defense witness would provide prosecutors with a key piece of their case.
But Peterson’s attorneys — who had argued among themselves about calling Smith — publicly defended the move. They said his testimony showed Stacy’s purported statement was unreliable because it occurred while she asked about squeezing more money from Peterson in a divorce settlement.
“She had a motive to lie, she wanted a financial advantage in the divorce and that’s why she did it and the jury should know that,“ defense attorney Steve Greenberg said later.
The Rev. Neil Schori met with Stacy Peterson in August 2007 to talk about her troubled marriage.
Instead, a tearful Stacy disclosed disturbing information about being ordered by Drew to lie when questioned by police about Savio’s death, Schori testified.
“She said she lied on Drew’s behalf to police,” testified Schori, who was pastor of the Bolingbrook church Stacy attended.
Stacy also described seeing her husband, clad all in black, come home late on the night authorities believe Savio was slain. He threw his own clothes and a duffel bag of women’s clothes he was carrying into the washing machine, Schori said Stacy told him.
None of the women’s clothes Peterson carried belonged to her, Stacy told him.
Peterson lawyer Joe Lopez later excoriated the minister for allowing Stacy to return home after the counseling session, arguing that showed Schori didn’t believe her account.
Lopez raised eyebrows in the courtroom when he sarcastically referred to his own client several times as a “murderer,” then later asked Schori if he met with Stacy at a coffee shop and brought along an assistant because “you knew Stacy was trying to seduce you?”
Peterson’s trial was only a few minutes old when his attorneys demanded a mistrial, contending a claim by Glasgow had unfairly prejudiced jurors against the former Bolingbrook cop.
Glasgow was still making his opening statement when he referred to an alleged $25,000 offer by Peterson to find a hitman to kill Savio, prompting the mistrial demand from defense attorneys.
Judge Burmila rejected the request, but barred any mention of the purported hitman offer from the trial.
Prosecutor Kathleen Patton later triggered two more defense calls for a mistrial, once when she started to question one of Savio’s neighbors about finding a .38-caliber bullet in his driveway, another time when she asked a Bolingbrook police officer about advising Savio to obtain an order of protection against Peterson in 2002. Burmila had specifically barred any questions about that subject two hours earlier.
In both those cases, defense attorneys took the extreme step of asking Burmila to declare a mistrial and bar prosecutors from retrying Peterson for Savio’s murder.
Burmila stopped testimony both times, yelled at prosecutors for not following his orders — but ultimately allowed the trial to continue.
Despite the initial uproar, prosecutors ultimately persuaded Burmila to allow testimony about Peterson’s alleged attempt to hire a hitman.
Jeffrey Pachter worked with Peterson when the Bolingbrook police sergeant moonlighted as a cable TV installer, but he said Peterson once asked him to do a different kind of job.
Peterson in 2003 offered him $25,000 to find a hitman to kill Savio, Pachter testified, saying Peterson knew he worked in a rough Joliet neighborhood troubled by gangs and drug dealers.
The offer came, Pachter claimed, during a late-night ride in Peterson’s squad car.
Peterson wanted a warning before anything happened so he could set up an alibi for the day, even musing about getting into a fight at Six Flags Great America so there’d be a police report showing he’d been there.
Pachter said he never took any steps to recruit a killer, but insisted that in a phone call a few months after Savio’s death, Peterson told he no longer needed the “favor” he’d asked about earlier.
Savio confided to her two older sisters that she had been threatened and even attacked by Peterson, both women said during dramatic testimony.
She told Anna Doman barely six weeks before she died that she had been threatened by Peterson.
“Drew had told her he was . . . he was going to kill her,” Doman told jurors “She was not going to make it through the divorce settlement.”
Savio was frightened but mostly she was concerned about her two sons, Doman said, recounting how her sister begged her to take care of the boys if something happened to her.
“I want to hear you say it,” Savio purportedly told Doman.
Savio told her sister, Susan Doman, that Peterson threatened her with a knife, then offered a chilling warning.
“Her husband had a knife on her throat and said he could kill her and make it look like an accident,” Susan Doman testified.
Dad was sad, son says
Called as Peterson’s last witness, his 19-year-old son, Tom, offered brief but emotional testimony as he recounted being told by his father that his mother was dead.
Tom, the oldest of Peterson’s two sons with Savio, said his father was “very shaken up” when he broke the news to his boys.
“I’ve never seen anyone so sad in my life,” Tom Peterson, now a student at the University of Pennsylvania, testified as his father looked intently at him.
Though prosecutors objected to the question, the younger Peterson also managed to quickly answer that he didn’t believe his father had been involved in his mother’s death.
Burmila ordered jurors to disregard the answer.
Clothes make the juror
They sported sports jerseys. They all wore red one day, then blue on another. Once, they collectively wore red, white and blue.
The 12 jurors and four alternates hearing the Peterson case apparently all reached the same verdict on at least one issue: what to wear to court each day.
Every day, observers wondered how jurors would be attired when they marched into court. Legal experts can’t recall ever seeing jurors coordinate their wardrobes for the bulk of the trial, especially in such a headline-grabbing case.
But no one is really sure what that means because analyzing such puzzling behavior isn’t black and white — another color pattern jurors once wore.
Defense attorneys offered their own theory.
“They’re a happy jury. Happy juries don’t convict,” Joel Brodsky said when asked about the clothing.
Restaurateur Jeff Ruby first took out ads in the Sun-Times and other papers denouncing Drew Peterson and his defense team.
Then the Cincinnati steakhouse owner rolled into Joliet in his luxury bus and sat through two days of Peterson’s murder trial.
The flamboyant entrepreneur followed that up a day later by getting arrested after he mouthed a two-word f-bomb at Peterson during a courtroom staredown.
An unrepetant Ruby admitted to the media he mouthed “f--- you” at Peterson while jurors were on a break and Burmila was out of the courtroom.
Ruby has a court date later this month for criminal contempt, but didn’t seem daunted by his arrest.
Days later, he offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the discovery of Stacy Peterson’s body.
Doctors vs. photos
Dueling doctors offered different explanations for how Savio died, but graphic death scene photos ultimately may carry more weight with jurors.
Jurors’ expressions turned solemn and most took frequent notes when the photos showing Savio lying in the tub — her knees pulled up, her toes pressed hard against one wall — were first shown early in her trial.
Their faces and actions never changed throughout the trial whenever doctors and detectives used the photos to describe injuries they found on Savio and the items they discovered — or didn’t locate — around the tub.
Jurors, though, frequently seemed uncertain as five pathologists — three called by prosecutors, two by defense attorneys — argued whether Savio was murdered or died in an accidental fall.
No Drew dialogue
He talking freely before his arrest — to media, well-wishers, pretty young women and even hecklers — but Drew Peterson said almost nothing during his trial.
Peterson politely greeted the first pool of potential jurors when they arrived in court.
“Good morning, ladies and gentleman,” he said, joining his attorneys in their introductions. “I’m Mr. Peterson.”
He said virtually nothing else publicly through five weeks of testimony.
Before defense attorneys wrapped up their case, Judge Edward Burmila asked Peterson if he planned to say anything from the witness stand.
Spectators eagerly leaned forward to hear his answer as Peterson rose slowly to his feet.
“I will not testify,” Peterson replied calmly.