Prosecution rests in Drew Peterson murder trial
BY DAN ROZEK AND JON SEIDEL Staff Reporters August 30, 2012 1:30PM
Dr. Michael Baden arrives for the Drew Peterson murder trial at the Will County Courthouse Wednesday, August 29, 2012, in Joliet. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 1, 2012 5:49PM
Testimony in Drew Peterson’s murder trial ended Thursday with his attorneys and Will County prosecutors both confident about the verdict jurors will reach in the notorious case.
“I don’t even know that the jurors are going to be able to agree the state proved a homicide beyond a reasonable doubt, let alone place Drew there,” defense attorney Joel Brodsky said outside the courtroom. “So, I’m feeling pretty good.”
Peterson’s attorneys have argued throughout the five-week trial that his third wife, Kathleen Savio, accidentally fell and drowned in her bathtub.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Tuesday, though defense attorneys said they will make a final, longshot request on Friday for Judge Edward Burmila to simply throw out Peterson’s murder charges because of a lack of evidence. Burmila rejected the same request earlier this week before defense attorneys presented their case.
Prosecutors offered medical testimony and hearsay statements to try to prove the 58-year-old former Bolingbrook cop killed Savio in 2004 to prevent her from getting a share of his police pension and other assets in their divorce. Peterson, they contended, tried to cover up the killing by making it appear she fell and drowned in the oval-shaped, 40-inch-long tub.
“I’m extremely satisfied with the place we’re at right now,” Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow said after jurors had been sent home for the day.
The normally taciturn prosecutor appeared so relaxed after the end of five weeks of testimony that he even took an apparent shot at defense attorneys for their controversial decision a day earlier to call Savio’s divorce attorney as a witness.
Attorney Harry Smith repeatedly told rapt jurors that Peterson’s now-missing fourth wife, Stacy, claimed during a 2007 phone call that Drew had killed Savio — testimony Glasgow described outside the courtroom as a “gift from God.”
“There were no gifts from God today,” Glasgow said as he left the courthouse.
Instead, on Thursday two doctors called by prosecutors offered more medical testimony to rebut claims the 40-year-old Savio died in an accidental fall.
Celebrity pathologist Michael Baden testified that Peterson’s third wife, Kathleen Savio, couldn’t have suffered a cut on the back of her head and bruises across the front of her body from a fall in her bathtub.
“They wouldn’t all come from a single fall,” said Baden, a former New York City medical examiner who testified at the O.J. Simpson murder trial and the more recent trial of disgraced Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge.
Baden testified the injuries he saw on Savio’s body following a 2007 autopsy more likely were inflicted by a struggle or assault.
Baden — who has performed more than 20,000 autopsies in a career that has spanned 53 years — did a third autopsy of Savio’s body at the request of her family following her 2007 exhumation.
Her body was exhumed and her death reviewed after the October 2007 still-unsolved disappearance of Stacy Peterson.
Another pathologist, Dr. Mary Case, testified a fall in her tub wouldn’t have been severe enough to knock Savio unconscious so she could drown accidentally.
A head injury violent enough to knock out Savio would have caused other damage besides the inch-long cut discovered on the back of her head, said Case, who has performed more than 11,000 autopsies.
After the final testimony, Glasgow stood in the Joliet courtroom and announced that prosecutors were through with their case.
“We have no further witnesses. Respectfully, the people would rest,” Glasgow said as Peterson glanced over at jurors.
Attorneys will be in court Friday to argue whether Burmila should issue a directed verdict throwing out the charges against Peterson.
If Burmila rejects the request from Peterson’s defense team, attorneys will hammer out instructions that will be given to the seven-man, five-woman jury before it begins its deliberations.
At that point, it’s up to the jurors to pore over testimony from nearly 50 witnesses and sort through hundreds of documents and other exhibits to reach a verdict.
No one would predict how long that could take.
“The judge will let them take as long as they want,” defense attorney Joe Lopez said. “They can stay for two days, 10 days, 20 days, as long as they need.”