By Espersen Justine
Jury selection begins in Drew Peterson trial of ex-wife’s death in 2004
By Justine Espersen
JOLIET, Ill. – Jury selection for the long-awaited trial of former suburban Chicago police officer Drew Peterson begins today. Peterson is being tried for the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004.
Lawyers will be picking 12 people this week from a pool of 200 set-aside almost three years ago, which has been put off due to an appellate court battles over the hearsay statements.
Peterson greeted about 40 potential jurors in his gray suit.
“Good morning, ladies and gentleman,” he said. “I’m Mr. Peterson.”
Prospective jurors are to fill out a 25-page juror questionnaire regarding their news habits, including if they have seen the made-for-TV movie, “Drew Peterson: Untouchable,” which is about the case.
“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,” Gail Pissetzky said, a Chicago defense lawyer with no association to the case told the Associated Press.
Defense attorney Steve Greenberg said he was confident they could easily weed out any bias regarding the case, despite its well-known publicity.
“Most people we represent are not likable…And some people don’t like Drew,” Greenberg said. “But if 12 people want to convict him because they don’t like him, then God help this country.”
The selection began after Will County Judge Edward Burmila’s first denied a motion to allow Peterson’s attorneys to raise objections to secondhand “hearsay” testimony during his trial. The ruling makes it unlikely Peterson’s trial will be delayed. Opening statements are set to begin July 31.
Peterson, 58, is pleading not guilty to the murder of his third wife. Savilo was found dead in a dry bathtub Mar. 1, 2004. Her death was originally ruled as a accident, but after his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, disappeared, authorities dug up Savio’s body and called her death a homicide after a second autopsy.
Despite Peterson’s arrogant demeanor prior to his arrest, defense attorneys Greenberg and Joel Brodsky are sure it will not affect the jurors’ decision.
“Jurors don’t convict people because they’re jerks,” Brodsky told the Chicago Sun-Times.
“He’s confident. He knows he didn’t do anything wrong,” he added.