The judge at Drew Peterson's murder trial on Tuesday blasted prosecutors for broaching a subject he told them not to and sent them home with a warning that he might throw the case out of court. Charlie Wojciechowski reports.
The judge in Drew Peterson's murder case says he will announce his decision on a mistrial motion Wednesday morning.
This is the third motion for mistrial in the three-week-old trial.
Sparking Tuesday's action was a question from prosecutor Kathleen Patton during her questioning of Teresa Kernc, a former colleague of Peterson's with the Bolingbrook Police Department.
"Did she tell you she wanted to get an order of protection?" Patton asked, broaching a subject previously barred by the judge.
"There was one thing I told you not to go into and that's exactly what you did," said Judge Edward Burmila.
Patton was visibly shaken.
"I'm sorry. It's my fault," said Patton, explaining that the question mentioning the order was on a prepared list that she began reading inadvertently.
A few minutes later, Patton could be seen in an adjoining room during a break, her shoulder slumped forward, her face buried in her hand, shaking her head over and over. Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow stood at a distance, his head down.
Court resumed after a 30 minute recess, with attorneys on both sides pleading with the judge.
Patton asked that she, alone, be held accountable for the blunder. Peterson attorney Joel Brodsky said the trial has been filled with "an avalanche of prejudicial, illegal evidence" and the case should be thrown out.
But Burmila didn't seem to care for the specificity of the defense team's request, which wanted only a ruling of a mistrial with prejudice, meaning the charges would be dropped and Peterson could not be tried again.
"You don't say to the court, 'We only get a mistrial the way we want the mistrial,'" he said.
A ruling of mistrial without prejudice would mean prosecutors could re-try Peterson with a new jury.
Two weeks ago, Burmila considered another motion for a mistrial after prosecutors asked a question that the judge said they should have not asked. At the time, the judge said he thought Peterson could still get a fair trial.
Savio was found dead in a dry bathtub in her home in 2004. Her death was initially ruled accidental. Following the disappearance of Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, Savio's body was exhumed and the death ruling amended to a homicide.
Drew Peterson denies he had anything to do with his fourth wife's disappearance, long maintaining that she left him for another man. He's not been charged with any crime involved in that case but does remain a suspect.
Any presumption that Stacy Peterson is dead was not allowed during this trial.