Judge Denies Motion for Mistrial In Peterson Case

"The defendant's ability to have a fair trial is not extinguished," judge says

By Lisa Balde, Kim Vatis and Glenn Marshall
|  Thursday, Aug 2, 2012  |  Updated 10:41 PM EDT
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Judge Edward Burmila tells jury to strike from their memories testimony heard a day earlier about a bullet being found in a driveway. Kim Vatis reports.

Judge Edward Burmila tells jury to strike from their memories testimony heard a day earlier about a bullet being found in a driveway. Kim Vatis reports.

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A judge has denied a motion for a mistrial in the high-profile murder case against Drew Peterson, a former Bolingbrook, Ill., police sergeant accused of killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio.

Judge Edward Burmila made the decision Thursday despite arguments over a suggestion made a day earlier by prosecutors' second witness that Peterson could have left a .38-caliber bullet in his driveway as an intimidation tactic.

"The defendant's ability to have a fair trial is not extinguished," Burmila said. He instructed the jury to ignore all statements made about the bullets.

The decision is seen as a blow to the defense after Burmila on Wednesday offered to strike the tainted testimony as a compromise to the defense's call for a mistrial.

But Peterson attorney Steve Greenberg renewed the defense's request for a mistrial and called the offending testimony "purposeful misconduct." Greenberg said the testimony makes him question Peterson's right to a fair trial even if the testimony was eliminated.

"So far we have a jury that thinks everyone is afraid of Mr. Peterson," Greenberg said Thursday in court. "How is that fair to Mr. Peterson?"

Burmila disputed that. "I told [jurors] not to pay attention if one side objects," he said.

This isn't the first delay in the long-awaited trial. It was postponed for years because of appeals over whether hearsay evidence, including witnesses who say both Savio and Stacy Peterson told them Drew threatened their lives, can be allowed.

Savio was discovered dead in a bathtub in her Bolingbrook home in 2004. Neighbors testified they found the woman's body after Peterson told them he hadn't heard from Savio. Peterson and Savio had been going through a messy divorce, and he asked them to accompany him to the house since Savio would be angry if he was in the house alone.

The case received nationwide attention after Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, mysteriously vanished in 2007 and has not been found. Peterson is not charged in Stacy's disappearance, and though some believe he had a role in her disappearance, his attorneys have said she left for another man.

Beyond news reports, the case starred in a Lifetime network movie called "Drew Peterson: Untouchable." The movie, purportedly based on the true story of the former Bolingbrook police officer, grabbed 5.8 million viewers when it premiered in January.

NBC Chicago has reporters in the Will County Courthouse for the trial. During proceedings, follow along with our Drew Peterson Trial Live Blog or follow gmarshall_jr on Twitter.

 

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