Monday, July 23, 2012
JOLIET, Ill. Jury selection is to begin Monday in Drew Peterson’s long-delayed murder trial, in which prosecutors want the former suburban Chicago police officer’s wives to effectively testify from their graves about his threats to kill them.
Peterson, 58, is charged with killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004. Her body was found in a dry bathtub in her home, her hair soaked with blood. The ex-Bolingbrook police sergeant also is a suspect in the 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, although he has not been charged.
Those picked for the jury are likely to hear statements that the wives allegedly made to friends and relatives about threats Peterson made. Such hearsay is usually barred, but an appellate court ruled jurors can hear the statements.
Will County Judge Edward Burmila will vet would-be jurors starting Monday. A 200-person jury has been waiting three years for a trial to get under way. It was put off because of appellate court battles over the hearsay statements.
“I’ve never heard of anything comparable to this — a jury pool waiting around for so long knowing what case they’re going to be in and the reliance on hearsay,” said Gal Pissetzky, a Chicago defense lawyer with no link to the case. “It’s all very unusual.”
Vetting would-be jurors typically takes a few days, but extra time is sometimes required in high-profile cases to weed out those who come in with well-formed opinions. Opening statements at Peterson’s trial in Joliet are slated for next Tuesday.