Drew Peterson in court for final pre-trial hearing

NEED TO KNOW
  • NEW: Peterson defense team launches website
  • He's accused of killing third wife Kathleen Savio in 2004
  • Investigation continues in fourth wife's disappearance
Drew Peterson in court for final pre-trial hearing

Drew Peterson was back in court Wednesday for his final pre-trial hearing before jury selection begins next week.

Peterson, a former police sergeant, is accused of killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004. He remains under investigation in the October 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson.

The case has been tied up in pre-trial motions and appeals since Peterson was arrested on May 7, 2009.

Read more: Get caught up on the Drew Peterson trial

As court proceedings and media scrutiny expected to intensify this week leading up to the trial, Peterson's lawyers launched a website Wednesday -- PetersonDefense.com -- to present their side of the case to the media and public.

For the last three years, defense attorneys have fought over the admissibility of 14 hearsay statements made by both of Peterson's wives. Savio's alleged statements out of court delayed the trial for almost two years. Peterson’s defense team ultimately lost that appeal, and the case was sent back to a trial court.

Attorneys were expected to argue at Wednesday's hearing over a prosecution exhibit called the “wound diagram.”  There's not a lot of information available about the diagram, but In Session’s legal experts say it is likely a visual demonstration of Savio’s head wounds.

Peterson’s defense attorney says his major problem with the “wound diagram” is the fact that the defense hasn’t seen it yet. The defense attorneys have said it’s possible that once they’ve seen the exhibit, they won’t have any objection to it. But at this point, the prosecution hasn’t shared the exhibit with the defense.

Read more: Who is Kathleen Savio?

Judge Edward Burmila is also expected to rule on an unknown issue regarding marital privilege. There's not a lot of detail available about the exact nature of the issue because whenever it has been brought up, the judge has cleared the courtroom and heard arguments behind closed doors.  

At a July 3 hearing, Burmila ruled on other important evidentiary issues. The defense tried to block the jury from hearing Savio's purported statements about how she was scared Peterson would kill her and make it look like an accident. In April, the appellate court said the jury could hear those statements.

Judge Burmila agreed, ruling that any hearsay that was previously approved is still admissible, but only if it concerns statements or actions directly attributable to the defendant, not simply what Savio may have believed.

The judge denied the prosecution's request to allow the jury to see the bathtub where Savio presumably died.  Prosecutors wanted the jury to be able to examine it, but the defense strenuously objected, saying that the tub itself is meaningless without its surroundings, and that photographs of the scene are the best evidence. The judge agreed, and denied the prosecution’s request -- at least for now.  

Burmila said if defense experts raise relevant issues regarding the bathtub during the case, the question of whether the prosecution can bring the tub into court can be revisited during its rebuttal case.

Jury selection for Peterson's trial is scheduled to begin July 23.  Opening statements are slated to begin July 31. There are no cameras allowed in the courtroom, but In Session on truTV will have a crew in the courthouse to bring you the trial.

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