Drew Peterson Might Beat Murder Rap With Mistrial
The judge in the Drew Peterson murder case called a halt to Wednesday's proceedings early so defense attorneys can figure out whether to pursue a mistrial.
The Drew Peterson murder trial may end on its third day as a judge will decide Thursday morning whether he will declare a mistrial and possibly free the accused wife-killer.
"The ball's always in the judge's court," defense attorney Joel Brodsky said after Judge Edward Burmila cut Wednesday's proceedings short and gave defense attorneys the night to decide to plan their next move.
That move will be whether to go after a mistrial or agree to instead have the jury told to disregard some testimony.
The testimony in question comes from Thomas Pontarelli, who lived next-door to Drew Peterson's third wife, Kathleen Savio, when she was killed in March 2004. Burmila is willing to sacrifice all or some of Pontarelli's testimony in hopes of avoiding a mistrial.
Pontarelli, while being questioned by Assistant State's Attorney Kathleen Patton, testified he found a .38-caliber bullet nose up in his driveway in 2002. Pontarelli believes Peterson placed the bullet in his driveway to intimidate him.
As soon as Pontarelli mentioned the bullet, defense attorney Steve Greenberg leaped to his feet and demanded a mistrial. Greenberg pointed out that Peterson has denied placing the bullet in Pontarelli's driveway and said there was no way prosecutors could prove he put it there.
Patton conceded that she could not tie Peterson to the bullet and Burmila mocked the notion that he must have been the one who placed it there.
“Who's the only person who has a gun?” Burmila asked sarcastically. “Hmm, Drew Peterson.”
Then, to further illustrate his point, Burmila slightly rephrased his own question, saying, “Who's the only person who looks like he has ammunition? Hmm, Drew Peterson.”
A visibly irritated Burmila also called the situation "completely troubling to the court."
When Patton tried explaining that she asked about the bullet to demonstrate that Pontarelli feared Peterson, the judge told her that "argument makes no sense to the court at all.”
Thomas Pontarelli was only the second witness to take the stand in the long-awaited murder trial. His wife, Mary Pontarelli, testified Tuesday.
Peterson faces charges he murdered Savio, who was his third wife, to avoid losing a good deal of money and assets in their pending divorce. He is also suspected of having a hand in the disappearance of his next wife, Stacy Peterson, who mysteriously vanished in October 2007.
Stacy remains missing. Witnesses have testified in pretrial hearings that she planned to divorce Peterson and that she knew he killed Savio.
Burmila called the questioning by Patton that led to Thomas Pontarelli talking about the bullet a "low blow."
Pam Bosco, who was the foster mother of Stacy's sister, Cassandra Cales, was the only representative of either Savio or Stacy's families to attend the trial Wednesday.
"Both sides are doing low blows at this point, aren't they now?" said Bosco, who was confident the judge would not declare a mistrial.
Despite her optimism that the trial would continue, Bosco was a bit mystified about Burmila's consistently barring prosecution evidence against Peterson.
"It seems wrong that you can keep out any kind of evidence," she said."If what was said was said, why can't it be admitted? Why are they hiding it?"
For possibly the first time since Peterson's arrest in May 2009, his attorneys exited the courthouse without stopping to hold a press conference outside.
State's Attorney James Glasgow, who has been tight-lipped about the case, did stop to make a few remarks.
"We're going to be ready to go tomorrow," Glasgow said. "The judge will make the final decision and we're confident the trial will resume tomorrow."
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