Illinois' murder trial of the century

Judge Rejects Motion to Acquit Drew Peterson

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Tom Gianni

    A Will County judge on Monday rejected a defense request to acquit Drew Peterson of first-degree murder charges.

    "The jury could find that the defendant is guilty of this offense," Judge Edward Burmila said in denying the motion.

    His ruling means that jurors, who have so far endured four weeks of testimony, will ultimately decide Peterson's fate.

    The former Bolingbrook police sergeant is charged with killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio. Prosecutors have no physical evidence and tried to build a compelling circumstantial case -- one that will lead jurors to conclude Peterson must have killed Savio.

    Burmila's ruling came less than an hour after prosecutors rested their case.

    In a likely preview of the defense team's closing arguments, attorney Steve Greenberg implored the judge to let Peterson go a free man.

    "What evidence can you point to in this case that Drew Peterson committed this crime?" he asked aloud. "They don't have a theory of what happened. They just hope that this jury, or your Honor, dislikes Drew Peterson."

    At one point, Greenberg even reminded the judge of his own words from last week when he said,
    "You don't even have any evidence linking him to the scene."

    Prior to court Monday, defense attorney Joel Brodsky told reporters the team is prepared to call about 10 witnesses in a process he anticipated will take about two days.

    Among those on his potential witness list: Savio divorce attorney Harry Smith.

    "What's good for the goose is good for the gander," Brodsky told reporters before entering the Will County Courthouse.

    Smith made himself available for several days in the last few weeks as the prosecution had considered calling him to testify on a letter Savio wrote expressing fear that Peterson would kill her. His testimony, however, could have backfired for the prosecution and he was not called. 

    It is believed Savio once perjured herself in another case, and Peterson attorneys wanted to call him to attack Savio's credibility. The judge ruled that Smith could be called but couldn't be asked questions that would impeach Savio.

    Brodsky also that while there have been discussions as to whether Peterson will take the stand in his own defense, no decision has been made. That decision, he said, is ultimately up to the defendant.

    Savio's death was initially ruled an accident but was reclassified a homicide after Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, went missing in 2007. Peterson is a suspect in her disappearance but hasn't been charged.

    Peterson has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in Savio's death. If convicted, he faces a maximum prison sentence of 60 years.

    NBC Chicago has reporters in the Will County Courthouse for the trial. During proceedings, follow along with our Drew Peterson Trial Live Blog or follow @bjlutz on Twitter.