There will be no mistrial for Drew Peterson.
Judge Edward Burmila denied the defense’s motion for a mistrial in the Drew Peterson case Thursday morning. Peterson is on trial for killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004.
On Wednesday, a witness for the prosecution testified that Peterson had left a .38-caliber bullet in his driveway in an attempt to intimidate him. The defense objected to the testimony, claiming it was extremely prejudicial and inadmissible.
“The defense says there should be a mistrial... There’s no question that the State asked that purposely, and the witness’ answer was not a surprise; it was the specific answer the State sought to elicit. However, the sanction of striking the testimony in its entirety is too severe, and might hurt the defendant more than the State... I find the State did not ask the question with the intent of causing a mistrial... So the motion for the mistrial is denied. I have drafted a cautionary instruction I intend to give the jury,” said Burmila.
Defense attorney Steve Greenberg argued in favor of the mistrial Wednesday morning. “I’ve never seen people who think they can ignore the rules of evidence, ignore the rulings of Court, and just go on and do what they want to do. What are the jurors going to think? The questions stick in their minds, just like the answers. They can do it on direct. And that’s what they’re going to do,” said Greenberg.
Prosecutor Chris Koch argued against the mistrial, saying that the issue could be remedied by striking the improper testimony from the record.
“The State is entitled to a fair trial, just as the defense,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do... to support the position that the defendant is guilty of murdering Kathleen Savio. We’re asking that you deny the motion, and we are ready to proceed today.”
Burmila gave this instruction to the jury regarding the imporper testimony:
“I have an instruction on the law I’m going to read to you before we proceed any further in the case. I will re-read this instruction at the end of the case. You have heard the testimony of Mr. Thomas Pontarelli... During the redirect examination, the assistant state’s attorney asked the question which she knew would draw an inadmissible response. You cannot consider any of the testimony given by Mr. Pontarelli during his redirect examination, and more specifically whether he said he had gotten a message from Mr. Peterson, felt intimidated, or anything about a bullet... The Court does not mean to suggest that you must necessarily disregard the remainder of Mr. Pontarelli’s testimony... It remains your duty to reach a verdict on the facts before you, and not on any other grounds,” said Burmila.
Testimony in the Peterson murder trial will resume Friday morning. In Session's live coverage of trial will be at 9 a.m. ET on truTV.