Peterson’s Lawyers Withdraw Mistrial Motion

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  • JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — Lawyers for Drew Peterson withdrew a motion for a mistrial Wednesday, saying the former Illinois police officer did not want a new jury to decide if he killed his third wife.

    The defense attorneys also asked Judge Edward Burmila to declare all hearsay evidence in the murder trial inadmissible — a motion the judge again denied. Testimony resumed soon after.

    Prosecutors are trying to prove that Peterson, 58, killed his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004. He was charged after his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, disappeared in 2007.

    On Tuesday, Burmila admonished prosecutors for violating his order not to discuss whether Savio asked for an order of protection against Peterson. The prosecutor who mentioned the order apologized to the judge, but Peterson's attorneys called the prosecution's actions unfair and asked for a mistrial.

    On Wednesday, as a hushed courtroom waited to hear the judge's decision on the mistrial motion, defense attorney Joe Lopez said his team was withdrawing the request.

    "We are not giving the state a practice run," Lopez said. "This is a real race and Mr. Peterson wants the world to know that he's not afraid. He wants to keep this jury in its place."

    The judge asked Peterson if he agreed with the move. He responded: "Yes."

    On Tuesday, Burmila told prosecutor Kathleen Patton not to ask a witness in front of jurors about whether Savio had sought an order of protection against Peterson. When she did, the judge told jurors to leave the room and berated the prosecutor.

    "There was one thing I told you not to go into and that's exactly what you did," Burmila told her.

    Burmilla said Wednesday that both sides agree Savio did not seek an order of protection in July 2002.

    "You are not to consider, infer or ponder for any purpose an order of protection," he told the jury.

    The prosecution's blunder was the third in as many weeks that prompted Burmila to give serious consideration to declaring a mistrial.

    Before testimony resumed Wednesday, Lopez told the court: "We don't want to take any more low blows."

    The case has been beset by problems since Savio was found dead in her bathroom at her suburban home. Investigators collected no physical evidence, and authorities initially ruled that Savio accidentally drowned. After Stacy Peterson vanished three years later, Savio's body was re-examined and her death was reclassified as a homicide.

    The judge has in recent days made several rulings in prosecutors' favor, granting them permission to present hearsay evidence central to their case.

    Hearsay, or statements not based on the direct knowledge of a witness, is usually not admissible in court, but Illinois passed a law in the wake of the Peterson case that allows it in certain circumstances.

    On Tuesday, Patton was questioning one of the state's most compelling witnesses when she made her mistake.

    Former police officer Teresa Kernc had just told jurors about interviewing Savio in 2002 after Peterson allegedly broke into Savio's home in a SWAT uniform and repeatedly pushed her to the ground.

    At one point, Savio allegedly told Peterson, "Go ahead and do what you came to do: Kill me," Kernc testified.

    "He said, 'Where do you want it?' And she said, 'In the head.'" Kernc testified.

    Peterson then allegedly told Savio to turn her head, which Savio did, Kernc said, based on what Savio told her.

    "And then he said, 'I can't kill you,'" she told jurors. Peterson then threw a garage opener to the ground and left.

    Shortly after Kernc finished telling that story, Patton turned and asked, "Did she tell you she wanted to get an order of protection?"

    The defense objected to Patton's question, and the judge asked jurors to leave the room.

    Kernc took to the stand again Wednesday.

    Peterson is also a suspect in Stacy Peterson's disappearance, although he has never been charged in her case. She is presumed dead but a body has never been found.
     

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