Drew Peterson Defense Launches Case
Drew Peterson's lawyers called their first witnesses in the ex-cop's murder trial.
The judge in the Drew Peterson murder trial rejected a bid by defense attorneys to have the accused wife-killer acquitted without even putting on a case.
Peterson lawyer Steve Greenberg argued at length Monday that prosecutors utterly failed to prove Peterson was even in the home of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, when she died, much less that he killed her.
"They didn't do it because they can't do it," Greenberg said. "It's like they were trying to nail a clump of Jell-o to a tree and make it stick there," he said.
After Judge Edward Burmila denied the ruling, the defense called six witnesses, none of whom was Peterson's son Thomas Peterson. Sun-Times columnist and Drew Peterson "friend" Michele "Michael" Sneed claimed earlier in the day that Thomas Peterson was going to be on the witness stand before the day was through.
"Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed has learned that Drew Peterson's eldest son with Kathleen Savio will testify Monday that he does not believe his father killed his mother," the Sun-Times trumpeted online before changing the story when it turned out to be wrong.
Sneed used the name "Michele" when she visited him in the Will County jail. Jail records list her as Peterson's "friend."
The defense did call three witnesses who have already testified for the prosecution and followed them with three who were new for the jury.
Mary Pontarelli, who lived next door to Savio and says she was her best friend, testified that she had never seen Peterson get angry at Savio or strike her.
Pontarelli neglected to mention that she pulled up in her car as Peterson was forcing Savio face-down into the grass during a 2002 dispute.
“I said, ‘Drew, how could you pin your wife down into the lawn in front of the whole neighborhood?’” Pontarelli testified during a 2010 pretrial hearing. “He said, ‘Mare, don’t come any closer. This is police business.’”
Pontarelli also said Peterson "joked a lot."
"He's the funny guy, always telling jokes about things," she said. "Not in
a mean way, in a fun way."
Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Bryan Falat next took the stand and fielded questions about his interview with Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, in the wake of Savio's March 2004 death.
Prosecutors objected when Peterson attorney Joel Brodsky tried to question Falat about how Stacy told him she and Peterson slept through the night Savio was supposedly killed.
Assistant State's Attorney Chris Koch said he would pursue evidence Judge Edward Burmila had already excluded if Brodsky kept it up, and the judge indicated he was willing to let him have it.
"You're the captain of the ship," Burmila told Brodsky. "If you want to travel in that direction, you go right ahead."
Brodsky backed off and later defended nearly handing prosecutors the evidence they want to present regarding statements Peterson purportedly made to Stacy about Savio's death.
Insurance adjuster Joseph Steadman, who also has previously testified, was called in to tell the jury about Savio's policy and whether Peterson knew she had removed him as the beneficiary of her $1 million policy.
FBI Agent Joseph Basile, Bolingbrook Police Officer Rob Sud and state police Investigator Darrin Devine also testified before Brodsky told the judge he was out of witnesses.
Burmila said he will start Tuesday early so lawyers can argue over the expected testimony of Wheaton attorney Harry Smith, who handled Savio's divorce from Peterson and claims he was told by Stacy that Peterson killed his third wife.
The jury—who have ramped up their effort to be noticed by the public—will report at the usual time.
After weeks of wearing color-coordinated outfits, the jury on Monday all wore shirts bearing the logos of various athletic teams.
The Bears and White Sox were the most popular choices, but the Blackhawks were represented, as was the University of North Carolina Augustana College.
Burmila joked with the jury about their clothing, but defense attorney Joseph "Shark" Lopez said he heard some grumbling in the courthouse corridor about their attire.
"I did hear somebody in the hallway say, 'This is a murder trial not a fashion show,'" Lopez said. "I'm not sure what that means."