Illinois' murder trial of the century

Drew Peterson Jury Selection Begins

Judge Burmila did not rule Monday on eight hearsay statements

Monday, Jul 23, 2012  |  Updated 1:12 PM CDT
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The Drama of Drew

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Former Bolingbrook police Sgt. Drew Peterson stands in front of the garage at his home on Nov. 17, 2007. Peterson was charged in the death of his third wife Kathleen Savio.

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A judge on Monday began vetting a pool of 200 potential jurors in Drew Peterson's long-awaited and long-delayed trial.

Jurors will be questioned in five groups of 40. Monday's group was admonished that this case is "not a movie you have seen in a theater or a show you have seen on TV."

Peterson is accused in the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, who was found dead at her Bolingbrook home in a bathtub in 2004. He has remained locked up for three years, two months and 15 days awaiting trial.

Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, mysteriously vanished in 2007 and has not been found. Peterson is not charged in Stacy's disappearance, but many believe he had a role in her vanishing.

The jury pool has remained in a holding pattern since they were told two years ago to avoid watching or reading anything about the Peterson case. Jury analyst William Grimes said that could make the selection harder than expected.

"It's going to be very difficult," Grimes told NBC Chicago. "They won't be able to find people who don't know about the case. In fact they'll probably have difficulty finding people who don't think he's guilty from what they've heard." 

Beyond news reports, the case starred in a Lifetime network movie called "Drew Peterson: Untouchable." The movie, purportedly based on the true story of the former Bolingbrook police officer, grabbed 5.8 million viewers when it premiered in January.

Judge Ed Burmila refused to bar Joe Hosey, AOL Patch reporter and author of the book the Lifetime movie was based on, from the courtroom. The defense plans to call him.as a witness.

The trial has been delayed in appellate courts while a decision was made on whether to allow hearsay evidence that could be crucial to the prosecution. The evidence includes witnesses who say both Savio and Stacy Peterson told them Drew threatened their lives. 

Judge Burmila did not rule Monday on eight hearsay statements that were originally ruled by Judge Stephen White to be unreliable. They are admissible, but their reliability will be challenged on a case-by-case basis.

Peterson attorney Joel Brodsky said he expects the trial to last about a month. Jury selection likely will take about a week.

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