Drew Peterson trial updates: Prosecution might wrap up case Friday
Joel Brodsky, the defense attorney for Drew Peterson, talks to reporters after Wednesday's court proceedings. (Phil Velasquez, Chicago Tribune / August 22, 2012)
3:20 p.m. Prosecution might rest its case Friday
Prosecutors said they will be in a position to rest their case Friday morning.
Assistant State's Attorney John Connor made the announcement to Judge Edward Burmila after the judge said he would not allow a state's attorney investigator to testify about a red "alibi folder" found in Peterson's home three years after Savio's death. The folder contained receipts from the Shedd Aquarium from the weekend that prosecutors say Savio died.
Burmila said he may revisit the ruling later.
Connor said the state did not have any more witnesses to call today. Both sides may still argue motions this afternoon.
2:30 p.m. Glasgow apologizes for language
Will County's State's Attorney James Glasgow apologized for using some slightly colorful language while making an argument before Judge Edward Burmila.
Prosecutors want to present testimony about a red "alibi folder" authorities found in Peterson's home three years after Savio's death with unwrinkled cash receipts from the day she died.
"This is a man he’s got a cash receipt... there's not a nick, not a fold, not a tear. I’ve never been able to do that and I’d like to challenge any man who could," Glasgow said.
He then noted that Peterson even had a cash receipt for a purchase at the Shedd Aquarium.
"Who the hell would keep that?" Glasgow said.
"Mr. Glasgow, please don’t say that," Burmila said.
"I am very wrong to have done that," Glasgow replied. "I seriously apologize. That will not happen again."
Defense attorneys say the receipts are irrelevant because prosecutors believe the murder took place earlier in the day.
Burmila hasn't yet ruled.
12:05 p.m. Gallery gasps at attorney question
Defense attorney Joseph Lopez asked why the Rev. Neil Schori had asked another man to accompany him to the meeting with Stacy Peterson.
Schori had testified earlier that the man sat about 10 feet away and was there as a precaution because he was meeting alone with a married woman.
"You felt like that because you knew she was trying to seduce you," Lopez said, eliciting gasps from the gallery.
Burmila rebuked the gallery immediately and followed up with further admonishments after the trial recessed for lunch.
"I can't allow those outside influences to impact the jury in this case," he said.
Testimony is scheduled to resume at 1:15 p.m.
11:45 a.m. Minister did not contact police
During cross-examination of the Rev. Neil Shori, defense attorney Joseph Lopez hammered away at Schori for not telling anyone about Stacy Peterson's alleged statements or doing anything to persuade her not to return home.
"Her statement, she claims, 'I live with a murderer,' and you let her go back into that house, correct?" Lopez said.
"It's not my job to stop her," Schori said.
"You didn't stop her because you didn't believe her," Lopez shot back.
"That's not true," Schori replied.
11:35 a.m. 'She lied on Drew's behalf'
Testimony from the Rev. Neil Schori during questions from the prosecution:
Schori said he met with Stacy Peterson on Aug. 31, 2007, on the outdoor patio of a Starbucksin Bolingbrook.
"I observed her sitting by herself on the patio in one of the chairs as I approached.
"Stacy appeared to be nervous, tentative, um. She was sitting alone, so I didn’t really know why. So I approached and greeted her.
"I did all of my counseling out in public. Usually I did it at Starbucks…. And I did that because I never wanted to have any questions of impropriety on my part."
Schori said he talked with her about two hours. As they spoke, he said she became more upset.
"She withdrew physically, sort of into herself, I recall her pulling her leg up and hugging it.
"She silently cried. She had tears running down her cheeks.
"She told me, um, that uh, one night she and Drew went to bed at the same time and they both went to sleep and she woke up in the middle of the night and she noticed that Drew was not in the bed with her.
"She looked around the house hoping to find him. She did not find him in the house. She attempted to contact him by phone and was unsuccessful in doing that.
"After that it was sometime later, but, in the early morning hours… she saw him standing near the washer and dryer and she saw him dressed in all black carrying a bag. She said that he removed his clothing and then took the contents of the bag and put all of that into the washing machine."
Drew Peterson then left the area, and Stacy Peterson went to the washing machine, Schori testified.
"She walked over to the washing machine and looked to see what was inside, and she saw women’s clothing that she identified as not hers."
Later, she had a conversation with her husband, Schori said.
"He told her that soon the police would be wanting to sit down to interview her, and he told her what to say to the police."
"It took hours (for him to tell her what to say).
"She said that she lied on Drew’s behalf to the police.
"She continued to cry. She was very scared."
Schori testified that she did not tell him what day this alleged incident occurred.
11:20 a.m. Minister says Stacy Peterson lied to police
The Rev. Neil Schori testified that he provided marriage counseling to Drew and Stacy Peterson while he was their pastor. He said all counseling sessions were held at coffee shops because he did not want any suggestions of impropriety with congregants.
Stacy Peterson told him that she woke up in the middle of the night on the weekend Savio died and looked for her husband. Stacy said she found him in the laundry room, dressed in black and putting women's clothes in washer. They were not hers.
Schori also said Stacy claimed Peterson coached her for hours on what to say to police after Savio died. A tearful Stacy told Schori that she lied to police, he testified.
During cross-examination, attorney Joseph Lopez asked Schori why he counseled congregants in Starbucks. "I think what I do is done very well," Schori said.
10:55 a.m. Judge allows some testimony from minister
Judge Edward Burmila denied the state's request that the Rev. Neil Schori be allowed to testify that Drew Peterson told Stacy Petersonhow to lie to police about his whereabouts at the time of Savio's death in order to commit the perfect crime.
But he did allow Schori to tell jurors that Stacy Peterson saw Drew Peterson come home late Saturday night wearing dark clothing, that his sleeves were wet and that he was putting into the washing machine women's clothes that were not hers.
10:10 a.m. Onlooker swears at Peterson, booted
Cincinnati restaurateur and ardent Drew Peterson hater Jeff Ruby was kicked out of the courthouse during a break after he was seen mouthing an expletive to the defendant.
Will County Sherrif's Department spokesman Ken Kaupas said Ruby was seated in the gallery when he locked eyes with Peterson and mouthed the words, "(expletive) you."
Peterson told his attorneys, and the act was also witnessed by a sheriff's department official.
Ruby was immediately escorted out of the courthouse and is barred from returning, Kaupas said.
9:50 a.m. Prosecution irks judge
Judge Edward Burmila is upset with the prosecution for allegedly misleading him about what the Rev. Neil Schori is expected to say on the witness stand.
Burmila has left the bench, demanding a transcript of testimony from Schori during a 2010 pretrial hearing, where Schori said that Drew Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy, told him Peterson returned home late, dressed in black and carrying a bag of women’s clothing shortly before Kathleen Savio was found dead.
9 a.m. Minister could be called to the stand
Among the witnesses who could be called today is the Rev. Neil Schori, who counseled Drew Peterson's fourth wife Stacy before she disappeared. But the defense is expected to object to his appearance on the stand.
Prosecutors want to call Schori to testify that Stacy Petersontold him during a pastoral counseling session that she saw her husband return home late, dressed in black and carrying a bag of women's clothing, not long before Peterson's third wife, Kathleen Savio, was found dead.
His testimony is critical to the prosecution because another witness who said he heard a similar story from Stacy Peterson was not allowed to testify last week because of missteps by the state.
Schori's account would be the strongest piece of evidence prosecutors have introduced so far that could show Drew Peterson behaved suspiciously the weekend Savio died. No physical evidence or eyewitness account ties him to the alleged murder, which a coroner's jury initially ruled was an accident.
Peterson's attorneys long have sought to bar Schori from the trial, but Judge Edward Burmila has ruled that marital privilege does not apply to his testimony because Stacy Peterson was relaying what she saw, not what she heard. Burmila has indicated that he still must decide whether the testimony is relevant to the case.
6:45 a.m. Jurors hear hit man testimony
Knowing a co-worker needed money to settle gambling and tax debts in 2003, Drew Peterson casually offered him $25,000 to find a hit man to "take care of" his third wife, Kathleen Savio, that associate testified Wednesday.
The Bolingbrook police sergeant did not dictate how or when he wanted Savio killed, said Jeff Pachter, who met Peterson at his side job as a cable installer. Peterson's only condition was that he be warned before the slaying took place so he could arrange an alibi, Pachter told a riveted Will County jury that spent recent days listening to dry forensic and medical evidence.
Though the judge barred prosecutors from arguing that Peterson tried to put a hit on Savio just four months before her death, the testimony allows them to show he wanted her dead. The implication could play a pivotal role in the largely circumstantial case, where no physical evidence connects Peterson to the alleged crime and the defense suggests Savio slipped in her tub and drowned in 2004.
During the November 2003 conversation — which Pachter said took place in Peterson's squad car after the defendant invited him to ride along on patrol — the sergeant shared his alleged alibi plans. Peterson described how he could leave the country or go to Six FlagsGreat Americain Gurnee on the prescribed day and get into a scuffle to establish his whereabouts around the time his third wife was killed, Pachter said.
On the actual weekend of Savio's death in March 2004, prosecutors allege Peterson took his family to the Shedd Aquarium and kept numerous receipts. Authorities found the unwrinkled receipts in a red folder more than three years later.
Pachter told jurors that Peterson — who warned him to keep the alleged hit quiet — wanted his wife dead because she had information that could cost him his police job.
"He told me this was something that I would take to my grave," Pachter said.
But Pachter, a convicted sex offender who owed the IRS $35,000 and had tried to borrow $1,000 from Peterson to cover gambling debts, told a friend about the offer within a week. The friend contacted police after Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy, vanished in 2007 and Savio's death, which had been handled as an accident, was reinvestigated.
The stone-faced Peterson seemed so calm during the 30-minute conversation that Pachter couldn't tell if he was serious, Pachter said. He has previously testified he thought the $25,000 offer was a joke.
"I didn't know what to make of it," Pachter said Wednesday.
Peterson offered no further instructions beyond telling him that he could negotiate the fee with the hit man and then keep any leftover money for himself, Pachter testified.
Though Peterson told him that Savio worked at Red Lobster, he did not give him a picture, a name or a home address to help put the plan in motion, Pachter said.
Pachter said he didn't act on the plan and that the two men didn't discuss it again until eight months later, when Pachter called Peterson to touch base and learned about Savio's death.
"He proceeded to tell me that everyone was doing fine. Then he said, 'The favor that I asked you, I don't need it anymore,'" Pachter said.
Judge Edward Burmila didn't allow Pachter to testify that because he worked in a high-crime area of Joliet that Peterson asked him to find a hit man.
Prosecutors also called Master Sgt. Bryan Falat of the Illinois State Police on Wednesday to bolster their theory that the 2004 investigation into Savio's drowning death was botched.
Falat, who in 2004 was a trooper temporarily assigned to investigations, testified that the circumstances of Savio's death "raised my suspicions right away" and that he expressed his view that "this could possibly be a homicide."
His boss at the time, Sgt. Patrick Collins, has testified he relied on the opinion of crime scene investigator Robert Deel and handled the case as an accident.
Falat told jurors that he pointed out to Deel a used condom in the waste basket in the bathroom where Savio died. Deel previously testified he wasn't informed of the condom, didn't see it himself and didn't take it as evidence.
And when Collins told him they would interview Peterson in a break room at the Bolingbrook Police Department, Falat said he objected and suggested a state police interview room instead.
"We don't usually interview people where they're comfortable or where they work," he testified.
Falat said Peterson was cooperative and "almost jovial-like" as they interviewed him in the department's break room. "He was joking, he was getting along with us," Falat testified.
The following day, Falat said Collins told him Peterson would be present when they interviewed Stacy Petersonat their Bolingbrook home.
"I told Sgt. Collins that I did not think it was a good idea that Drew was in the same room as Stacy during the interview," he said. "We never interview two people in the same room."
But the interview went ahead, with Peterson sitting less than a foot from his wife as she was questioned. Collins previously testified that he granted Peterson a "professional courtesy" as a fellow police officer.
Savio's next-door neighbor, Nick Pontarelli, told jurors about what happened the weekend the woman who "was like a second mother to me" was found drowned. His testimony was briefly halted after a juror informed the judge he recognized Pontarelli.
Burmila then met privately with the juror, whose father works at Bolingbrook High School, and attorneys before announcing that the issue had been resolved and the juror would remain in place.
Pontarelli wasn't allowed to testify that he didn't see scratches or scrapes on Savio's arms the afternoon before prosecutors believe she drowned in her bathtub.
He told jurors that on the day Savio was found dead, he and his mother went to Savio's home. He found an open carton of orange juice on the island in Savio's kitchen. Thinking it strange, he put the cap on and returned it to the refrigerator.
"She was the type of person who would put it away and would be on the kids about putting stuff away," he said.
After his mother screamed, he entered the bathroom where she was found, Pontarelli testified.
"I just kind of stood back; I leaned back against her bed," he said. Then he left the house. "I was in shock."
Prosecutors also called Savio's physician, Dr. Vinod Motiani, to combat a defense theory that Savio drowned after slipping and falling in the tub.
"She was at no more risk (of falling) than any other person," he testified.