JOLIET, Ill. (STMW) — Drew Peterson’s jury may not see the “murder weapon” Will County prosecutors say he used to kill Kathleen Savio: her bathtub.
Judge Edward Burmila barred prosecutors from introducing the bathtub as evidence in Peterson’s trial for now, even though prosecutors argued jurors need to see and touch the spot where Savio drowned in 2004.
“The bathtub is now essentially the murder weapon,” Assistant State’s Attorney John Connor said, describing the tub as Savio’s “final resting place.”
Burmila left open the possibility of allowing prosecutors to bring the actual tub into the courtroom, depending on the testimony offered by Peterson’s expert witnesses.
Defense attorney Joe Lopez objected, contending prosecutors simply wanted the tub ushered into the courtroom for “dramatic effect.”
He said jurors wouldn’t get an accurate picture of how Savio drowned in the bathtub without seeing it in the Bolingbrook home where she died during nasty divorce proceedings from Peterson.
“The jury is deprived of seeing how the tub really looked,” Lopez said.
After prosecutors offered to reinstall the tub in Savio’s former house, Burmila balked, saying he wouldn’t impose on the current owners, who have no involvement in the case.
Prosecutors wanted jurors to be able to examine the bathtub — and even touch it — in an apparent effort to bolster testimony from their experts that Savio didn’t accidentally drown in the tub after slipping and falling.
Burmila also shot down a last-ditch defense effort to prohibit jurors from hearing testimony about some statements Savio made before she died.
The judge made his rulings as lawyers in the Peterson case continue preparations for his July 23 trial.
Both sides also met privately with Burmila on June 25, court records show. Defense attorney Joel Brodsky said the judge agreed to open to attorneys’ files on two misdemeanor battery cases filed against Savio that were later expunged.
Peterson’s team suspects those files could become relevant if former Savio divorce attorney Harry Smith testifies at the trial. If he gets on the stand, Burmila has said he will force Smith to testify about a conversation he had with Savio while acting as her criminal defense attorney.
The judge also banned from trial last month a collection of broadcast TV interviews prosecutors wanted to show jurors, though he might allow transcripts of all but one. And he said jurors may hear about conversations Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy, had with the Rev. Neil Schori if prosecutors show they’re relevant.
Peterson is charged with murder for Savio’s drowning death. It was initially ruled an accident after she was found in a dry bathtub in her home, but authorities reclassified it a homicide after Stacy went missing in 2007. Savio’s body was exhumed and autopsied.
Peterson remains a prime suspect in his fourth wife’s disappearance, but during an earlier hearing, Burmila ruled prosecutors will not be allowed to mention any presumption Stacy might also be dead.