September 4, 2012

Prosecutor gives closing in Drew Peterson case

Michael Tarm Associated Press
 

JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — A prosecutor on Tuesday called on jurors to convict Drew Peterson of murder, saying there’s enough circumstantial evidence to warrant a guilty verdict against the former suburban Chicago police officer in his third wife’s 2004 death.

Prosecutor Chris Koch, during closing arguments that followed five weeks of testimony, walked up to the defense table, pointed his finger at Peterson and said in a raised voice, “It is clear this man killed Kathleen Savio.”

As he walked through the evidence Koch repeatedly recited the mantra, “Use your common sense, ladies and gentlemen.” Defense attorneys were to give their closing arguments, after which jurors will begin deliberations on whether the state proved Peterson killed Savio.

Savio was found dead in a dry bathtub in her suburban Chicago home, not long after she and Peterson divorced and before they had agreed on a divorce settlement. Savio’s death was initially ruled an accident, but it was later ruled a homicide after her body was exhumed and inspected following the 2007 disappearance of Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy Peterson.

Prosecutors say circumstantial evidence points to one plausible explanation for Savio’s death: that Peterson killed her. Koch told jurors that common sense should tell them Savio couldn’t have slipped in a bathtub and received a gash on the back of her head and bruises on her front.

Joe Lopez, who will deliver the defense’s closing argument and who is known for his blunt courtroom style and brightly colored ties, is expected to emphasize the lack of hard evidence tying Peterson to Savio’s death and to cast doubt on whether her death was even a homicide.

Peterson, 58, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. If convicted, he faces a maximum 60-year prison sentence.

He is suspected but hasn’t been charged in Stacy Peterson’s disappearance, and prosecutors have been barred during the trial from mentioning or hinting that that she is presumed dead and that her husband is the lone suspect in her disappearance.

The heart of the state’s case is testimony from friends, relatives and acquaintances of Savio about things she allegedly told them before she died incriminating her husband. Such testimony, called testimony, isn’t usually allowed, but Illinois passed a law in 2008, dubbed “Drew’s Law,” that allowed hearsay testimony to be introduced at trials under rare circumstances.

Among the hearsay testimony allowed in Peterson’s trial was a statement Savio allegedly made in which she warned that Peterson threatened he could kill her and make it look like an accident.

As part of their three-day case, Peterson’s lawyers called Peterson’s and Savio’s 19-year-old son, Thomas Peterson, to tell jurors he has never believed his father killed his mother.

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Follow Michael Tarm at www.twitter.com/mtarm

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