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Legal experts: Little reason to charge Drew Peterson with Stacy’s murder

Stacy Peterson

Stacy Peterson

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Updated: October 10, 2012 6:24AM

Kathleen Savio’s family celebrated on the lawn of the Will County Courthouse when jurors convicted Drew Peterson for the murder of his third wife.

The family of Peterson’s missing fourth wife joined them, saying they hope justice will next be served for her presumed death.

The 58-year-old Peterson faces a minimum 20-year prison sentence for Savio’s murder, meaning the former Bolingbrook cop might never take another free breath.

Nevertheless, Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow hinted he might try to put Peterson on trial again — this time for the murder of Stacy Peterson.

Legal experts said Friday that move would accomplish little while eating up significant county resources.

“That’s another case that would go on forever,” said Leonard Cavise, a DePaul University law professor.

Stacy Peterson, a 23-year-old Bolingbrook mother of two, went missing Oct. 28, 2007, when she was supposed to go to her brother’s house to paint. Her disappearance captured the nation’s attention, particularly because of the suspicious death of her husband’s third wife more than three years earlier.

Had Stacy not gone missing, investigators might never have taken a second look at Savio’s death. She was found dead in her dry bathtub March 1, 2004, as she and Peterson still battled over financial issues related to their divorce.

Her death was originally ruled an accident, but prosecutors ordered her body dug up in 2007 and re-examined, leading to a ruling of homicide.

A Will County jury Thursday found Peterson guilty of murdering Savio.

“It makes a statement about violence against women,” Glasgow said of the verdict. “It is one of the biggest problems that we have in this country. And that it won’t be tolerated.”

He later went on, at the urging of reporters, to talk about Stacy Peterson’s disappearance.

“We are going to aggressively review that case with an eye toward potentially charging it,” Glasgow told several reporters — and a happy crowd.

Many people took that comment to mean another Peterson trial could be on the horizon. But Chicago-based criminal defense attorney Sam Adam Jr. doesn’t buy it. Glasgow, he said, has an election to win in two months.

“I don’t believe him for a second,” Adam said.

He went on to say Glasgow will probably do what Adam calls “the right thing” — citing Stacy’s disappearance at Peterson’s sentencing hearing to try to get him a longer prison term but never charging him with Stacy’s murder.

“To get him convicted on Stacy serves no purpose other than satisfying the family,” Adam said.

The family wants that satisfaction, though. Pam Bosco, a spokeswoman for Stacy’s family, attended each day of Peterson’s trial. She told reporters after his conviction he “has to pay for Stacy.”

“There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be brought back into this court and face another jury,” Bosco said.

Cosmo Tedone, a criminal defense attorney based in Joliet, said Glasgow left himself no choice when he made his comment about Stacy’s case.

“He’s going to have to try Stacy Peterson’s case,” Tedone said.

But prosecuting Peterson for Stacy’s murder could be an even trickier ordeal than Glasgow faced in the Savio case, Tedone said. Testimony in Peterson’s long, stop-and-start trial for Savio’s murder lasted five weeks. And it’s not clear what the trial cost taxpayers — county officials declined to put a price tag on it Friday.

The second time around, Glasgow wouldn’t even have a body to point to while proving Peterson’s fourth wife was murdered. Cavise said it’s “by no means a slam dunk.”

Cavise also said the state’s attorney should make his decisions based on what’s best for the community, not just victims’ families.

Glasgow could pursue charges against Peterson in Stacy’s presumed death as a safeguard against him getting out of prison if his Savio conviction is overturned on an appeal.

But Cavise and others point out there’s no statute of limitations on murder. Glasgow or his successor, they said, could wait to charge Peterson with Stacy’s murder if an appeals court springs him. And the attorneys said it wouldn’t be a case of double jeopardy to do so if Glasgow uses Stacy’s case during the Savio sentencing hearing.

Paul DeLuca, a former prosecutor in Cook and DuPage counties now in private practice, said Glasgow will likely decide what to do about Stacy after Peterson is sentenced by Judge Edward Burmila on Nov. 26. The shorter the prison sentence, DeLuca said, the more likely Glasgow will be to file charges in Stacy’s murder.

“I think Burmila’s going to hit him hard,” DeLuca said. “I really do.”

But Glasgow told reporters he’s spent his whole career throwing political caution to the wind. If he decides charging Peterson with Stacy’s murder is the right thing to do, Will County residents might need to steel themselves for round two.

“My entire career has been against all odds,” Glasgow said.

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