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CHICAGO (CBS) – A Will County judge decided today that Kathleen Savio’s divorce attorney and the pastor for Drew Peterson’s fourth Wife, Stacy, will be permitted to testify at Drew’s murder trial.
WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Berner reports Judge Edward Burmila ruled Savio’s attorney will be required to testify about conversations he had with Savio before her death, rejecting defense arguments the testimony would violate attorney-client privilege.
The judge has said that privilege was waived.
Savio’s divorce attorney, Harry Smith, met with the judge in private to discuss conversations he had with Savio about Peterson. Burmila did not reveal exactly what was said in that meeting, but said Smith’s testimony would be incriminating.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Berner reports
Smith has previously said Savio told him she believed Peterson would kill her and make it look like an accident. He’s also said Savio wanted to make sure Peterson could not benefit from her death.
Prosecutors have alleged Drew Peterson killed Savio, his third wife, to prevent her from testifying against him in divorce proceedings. He’s also a suspect in Stacy’s disappearance, but has not been charged. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Savio’s death in 2004 was initially ruled an accidental drowning, but authorities reopened the case when Stacy disappeared in 2007, and a new autopsy determined her death was a homicide.
Burmila also ruled Stacy’s pastor, Rev. Neil Schori, can testify at the trial if prosecutors can prove his testimony would be relevant.
Schori is expected to testify Stacy told him Drew Peterson coached her to lie to police when questioned about Savio’s death. Schori has said Stacy told him Drew Peterson admitted he killed Savio, and Stacy feared she was next.
But defense attorney Joel Brodsky said, “This entire case is based upon speculation, assumptions, and not on fact. It’s all based upon, just guess work.”
The judge has previously said Schori’s testimony presents an unusual challenge for the jury, as they will need to determine not only whether he is telling the truth, but whether Stacy was telling the truth when she talked to him.
Burmila also ruled Thursday that video interviews Drew Peterson did with the news media over the years will not be shown in court, but some of what he said in those interviews will be permitted in written form. He said the videos could be prejudicial, if jurors see news reporters asking accusatory questions of Peterson and believe the reporters to be credible.
“People do have a First Amendment right to speak on TV, and if you’re going to be using these interviews against people in the future, it’s going to cause a chilling effect on their First Amendment rights. I think the judge was correct that it shows prejudice,” defense attorney Joe Lopez said.
The judge will address more pretrial motions at the next hearing on July 3, and jury selection for Peterson’s trial begins on July 23.