UPDATED 09/04/12 – 5:49 p.m.
JOLIET, Ill. (CBS) — A defense attorney for Drew Peterson told jurors Tuesday that prosecutors “are trying to nail Jell-O to a tree,” and have no evidence that Peterson killed his third wife, Kathleen Savio.
Peterson is accused of killing Savio in her bathtub in 2004. Prosecutors have no physical evidence linking Peterson to Savio’s death, leaving the prosecution with a heavily circumstantial case that relies almost entirely on hearsay statements that Peterson threatened to kill Savio.
WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser and CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli report jurors were sent home late Tuesday afternoon, after both sides finished their closing arguments. Jurors will return at 9 a.m. Wednesday to receive their instructions, and then begin deliberations.
Will County prosecutor Chris Koch said jurors have to use their common sense, and if they do, he said they will determine that Drew Peterson killed Savio eight years ago.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports
Koch explained the circumstantial evidence thusly: “Say that you go to bed tonight and you wake up, and there’s two feet of snow on the ground. It’s a reasonable inference that it snowed. This man killed Kathleen Savio.”
He said the 14 bruises and abrasions on Savio’s body could not have come from a single fall in her bathtub. He urged the jurors to agree with the prosecutions’ doctors, who said that the scientific evidence shows Savio was murdered.
Koch also repeated an alleged threat Peterson made to Savio: “I’m going to kill you. You are not going to make it to the divorce settlement. You are not going to get the pension. You are not going to get the kids.”
Koch pointed to Peterson and said prosecutors proved beyond a reasonable doubt that “He went into that house, pushed her down, held her down until she inhaled fluid, and drowned.”
Defense attorney Joe Lopez countered the prosecution’s case, telling the jury, “They can’t tell you how it happened, when it happened, and who did it. What evidence do they have that Drew Peterson murdered his wife? None. Zero.”
Lopez spent two hours arguing that the prosecution case was riddled with more holes than Swiss cheese. He said the proof was so flimsy, the state might as well have used a Ouija board.
The defense has relied on testimony from two pathologists who have said Savio’s death was an accident. Prosecution pathologists have countered Savio’s death could not have been an accident, and could only have been the result of a homicide.
Lopez said, “They are trying to nail Jell-O to a tree. It’s an accident, pure and simple.”
He also called the prosecution’s case garbage.
“We don’t convict on garbage in America,” he said.
Lopez said the framers of the Constitution would “barf” on the evidence.
He wrapped the jurors’ duty in the flag, comparing it to the duty of a soldier.
Outside court, Lopez said, “It’s their patriotic duty to follow the law, and the law demands that this case be thrown out, because the state hasn’t proved it beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow had the last word, presenting the prosecution’s rebuttal argument. He methodically went through the evidence and urged the jurors to use common sense.
He said jurors should consider all the hearsay statements they heard during the trial and realize Peterson wanted his ex-wife dead, could do it himself, and make it look like an accident.
“We don’t have to prove each [statement] beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said. “Put them all together.”
Glasgow added, “take a stick, you can snap it. Take 50 sticks and you can’t break them.”
Savio’s death was originally ruled an accidental drowning, but was reclassified as a homicide after a new autopsy prompted by the disappearance of Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy.
Many have speculated that Will County prosecutors will have a hard time getting Peterson convicted, since the evidence in the case is circumstantial or based on hearsay.
But jury consultant Alan Tuerkheimer said even though there was no physical evidence and no witness linking Drew directly to Savio’s death – prosecutors have enough to win a conviction.
“It happens all the time, and if jurors think this was a murder, who else would they pin it on?” Tuerkheimer said.