The fourth wife of accused murderer Drew Peterson spoke to an attorney in the days before she disappeared to get advice on how to extort money out of the defendant, that attorney testified Wednesday.
In a move that many court observers say backfired, the defense team called Harry Smith to the stand. Smith was the divorce attorney who represented Peterson's third wife, Kathleen Savio.
Peterson is fighting first-degree murder charges he killed Savio. Her death was initially ruled an accident but the case was re-opened when his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, vanished in October 2007. Judge Edward Burmila has barred any mention of her disappearance during the trial.
Days before she dropped out of sight, Smith told jurors he received a phone call from Stacy Peterson.
"She wanted to know if, in my opinion, the fact that he killed Kathy could be used against him," Smith testified Wednesday afternoon. "She didn't use the word leverage, but that certainly was the intimation."
Stacy Peterson's friend, Pam Bosco, called the testimony a "gift from the defense."
"She was trying to get out what she knew about Kathleen's death and Drew killing her -- how Drew killed her that night," Bosco said.
But the defense team team said the conversation between Stacy Peterson and the attorney pointed to just one thing: greed.
"She had a motive to lie. She wanted a financial advantage in the divorce," said attorney Steve Greenberg. "That's why she did it, and the jury should know that."
Calling Smith to the stand was a risky move for the defense. While his testimony suggested Stacy Peterson was mulling a possible shakedown attempt, it also emphasized that she seemed convinced her husband did kill Savio. And it raised the question in jurors' minds about just where Stacy Peterson is.
Smith came close to broaching that issue when he testified Stacy Peterson never got around to hiring him. When defense attorney Joel Brodsky asked why, Smith stammered uncomfortably, apparently understanding the answer would be inadmissible. After a hastily called break, Brodsky withdrew the question.
Another time, Smith said he told Stacy Peterson during the phone conversation that she should "be careful" -- an apparent reference to how Drew Peterson could do her harm. When Brodsky said Smith had previously testified that he told her to be careful because she could be arrested for attempted extortion, the witness denied it.
"It's a crime to conceal a homicide. Clearly, that wasn't the thought on her mind," Smith later told reporters.
- Day 1: Peterson Trial Begins with Different Explanations of Savio's Death
- Day 2: Judge Could Declare Mistrial in Peterson Case
- Day 3: Judge Denies Motion for Mistrial in Peterson Case
- Day 4: Savio's Sister Testifies
- Day 5: Colleague: Drew Peterson Said Life Would be Better if Savio Were Dead
- Day 6: Savio Slept With Knife Under the Bed
- Day 7: Drew Peterson Gets Brief Visit from Son, Now 18
- Day 7: Friend: Ex-Wife Said Peterson Grabbed Her by Neck
- Day 8: Key Witness Concedes Movie Deal
- Day 9: Judge Mulls Mistrial Motion in Peterson Case
- Day 9: Peterson Judge Allows Cop to Testify on Savio Report
- Day 10: Defense Drops Motion for Mistrial
- Day 10: Judge Again Scolds Prosecutors
- Day 11: Pathologist: Peterson's Third Wife Was Murdered
- Day 12: Judge: Savio Friend "Facially Unreliable"
- Day 13: Head Trauma Expert Details Savio's Injuries
- Day 14: Peterson Juror Recognizes Witness
- Day 14: Jurors Hear Hit Man Testimony
- Day 15: Man Tossed from Peterson Courtroom
- Day 15: Stacy Says Drew Coached Her to Lie
- Day 16: At End of Fourth Week, Prosecutors Sounding Less Confident
- Day 17: Judge Rejects Motion to Acquit Drew Peterson
- Day 17: Will Drew Take the Stand?
- Day 17: Drew Peterson Attorneys Begin Defense
- Day 18: Pathologist "Vehemently" Disagrees With State Witness
- Day 19: Savio Son Never Suspect Dad Had Role in Mom's Death
- Day 19: Attorney: Stacy Considered Extorting Money from Drew