Attorneys say Drew Peterson's TV appearances have put him at risk
November 20, 2007 (CHICAGO) -- Defense attorney Joseph Tacopina knows what Drew Peterson is trying to do by going on television time and again to proclaim his innocence in the disappearance of his wife and death of an ex-wife.
He knows the 53-year-old former Bolingbrook police sergeant is trying to battle growing suspicions being fed in the media by angry relatives, neighbors, an ex-wife and scathing words from the likes of television hosts John Walsh and Geraldo Rivera.
But he also believes comments Peterson made about his missing wife in interviews, combined with his behavior after she disappeared, could backfire.
"He really couldn't have done anything worse short of saying, 'Yeah, I killed her, so what?"' said Tacopina, whose clients have included a one-time suspect in the 2005 disappearance of American teenager Natalee Holloway in Aruba.
It has been more than three weeks since Stacy Peterson vanished. Since then, authorities have said they believe the death of Peterson's third wife, Kathleen Savio -- who was found dead in her bathtub three years ago -- was a homicide staged as a drowning accident.
Peterson has not been called a suspect in Savio's death, but authorities said they suspected him in Stacy Peterson's disappearance.
And Peterson has found himself at the center of a media storm.
He went from explaining to reporters that his 23-year-old wife left him for another man to leaving his home or staying behind his door to escape the growing crush of television news trucks camped outside.
When he did show himself, it apparently was to bait the press, from the day he wore a bandanna over much of his face to the time he came outside to tell a joke in which he compared the media unfavorably to a pig.
Recently, though, he's decided to talk. And talk. He invited Rivera into his house. He flew to New York to sit across from Matt Lauer on the "Today" show and he appeared on "Good Morning America."
"He said ... I want to get my message out to the world," said Steve Carcerano, a friend who also has been a much sought-after interview subject because he found Savio's body in 2004.
Peterson repeatedly has said he had nothing to do with his wife's disappearance or the death of Savio, whose body was exhumed last week so authorities could examine it again.
But when Peterson talks, the public is listening.
They are listening both to what he says and how he says it.
In some interviews, Peterson said his wife's behavior was tied to her menstrual cycle and told how he paid for cosmetic surgery. Walsh, host of America's Most Wanted, has described Peterson's answers as "awful cold-blooded responses."
Prosecutors also are listening, waiting for Peterson to slip up, make a statement that doesn't jibe with what he's said before, defense attorneys say.
"You should be very careful (because) the next time you watch, you could be sitting in the defendant's chair," said Mark Geragos, who represented Scott Peterson, the California man convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in 2004 in the slaying of his pregnant wife, Laci.
Three interviews Scott Peterson gave -- before he retained Geragos -- were played in open court.
Scott Peterson's own words in those taped interviews and taped conversations did him in, said Geragos, a conclusion famed defense attorney Gerry Spence agrees with.
"They never even proved a murder in that case," Spence said of Scott Peterson. "The thing he did do was cheat on his wife. He got the death penalty for proof that he cheated on his wife."
Geragos said media interviews pose another hazard.
"If they find (Stacy Peterson) and she's dead and she was dead at the time the interview was done ... those things look awful. Whether (Drew Peterson) had anything to do with it, it looks awful," Geragos said
On Monday, it seemed that Peterson -- or at least the attorney he retained last Friday -- recognized that interviews are risky. During a brief interview on "Today," Joel Brodsky would not let his client to respond to most questions.
"I think you will see his comments tailing off now," Brodsky said Tuesday, adding that he does not like his clients talking to the press.
But Brodsky also said that Monday's appearance on "Today" was necessary to confront statements made by a pathologist who examined Savio's body for her family and said he believed the woman was murdered.
"We had no choice but to dispute it, get our message out," said Brodsky.
Tacopina -- who said he would not let Joran Van der Sloot, a one-time suspect in Holloway's disappearance, talk to the media for nine months -- said the damage already may have been done in Drew Peterson's case.
"Not for a second do I judge this guy, but his standup routine in front of his house while his wife is missing is in bad taste and people cannot reconcile that with someone who is grieving," he said.
That, along with his answers during interviews, including referring to his wife in the past tense, and Peterson might have hurt himself if his fate ever is put in the hands of a jury, Tacopina said.
"Things like that, when there is maybe a gap in the evidence, the jury's disdain for the defendant will often fill that gap where the evidence should be," he said.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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