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Drew Peterson Trial Judge: Pastor, Savio divorce lawyer can testify

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A judge will allow prosecutors to call key witnesses to testify in the Drew Peterson case. The former Bolingbrook police sergeant is preparing to stand trial for the murder of his third wife Kathleen Savio.

Defense attorneys argued the testimony should not be allowed.

The judge says Kathleen Savio's divorce attorney and the pastor of Peterson's fourth wife, the missing Stacy Peterson, can be called at the trial.

The judge is allowing the testimony of both key witnesses; however, not without some requirements from prosecutors and more questioning from the judge to the divorce attorney during the trial.

Judge Edward Burmilla ruled on three defense motions Thursday. One is considered a clear victory for prosecutors: Stacy's Peterson's pastor will be allowed to testify as long as the state can prove Rev. Neil Schori's testimony is relevant. Peterson's attorneys were hoping to get Schori's statements thrown out based on marital privilege.

"We are very pleased with the judge's ruling today with regards to the application of the husband-wife privilege. He ruled that not all actions are communicative, and the ones that are not meant to be communication can be admissible in a trial," said Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow.

If allowed, Schori is expected to tell a jury that Drew Peterson's fourth and missing wife, Stacy, told him that she saw the former Bolingbrook cop return home the night his third wife Kathleen Savio was found dead dressed in black and carrying a bag of women's clothing.

Defense attorneys doubt prosecutors will prove Schori's testimony is relevant.

"I am pretty confident that speculative and guesswork is not going to be allowed into evidence, and if that's the case then we will not be hearing much from Rev. Schori," said Drew Peterson's Attorney Joel Brodsky.

But attorneys will be hearing testimony from Kathleen Savio's divorce attorney. While prosecutors want to use Harry Smith as a witness to testify about how Savio told him she feared Peterson would kill her, Judge Burmilla said he will first question Smith, outside the presence of a jury, on other conversations Savio had with her attorney before she died.

"There's an indication there that there's gonna be some testimony if he's compelled to testify what his client told him, that she admitted to some of the allegations that she denied later, which would affect her credibility," said Drew Peterson's attorney Joe Lopez.

While the testimony from Schori and Smith are still not determined for the trial, Judge Burmilla did rule that none of the interviews Drew Peterson did on national television before he was arrested will be allowed in the trial.

"People do have a 1st Amendment right to speak on TV, and if you're going to be using these interviews against people in the future, it's going to cause a chilling effect on their 1st Amendment rights," said Lopez.

With six of the seven videos prosecutors were hoping to use, the judge will allow a written transcript of the interviews only.

The judge also ruled that both sides will be able to excuse seven jurors each for cause during the jury selection.

Both sides will return to court the first week of July to go over more pre-trial motions.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin July 23. Opening statements will be the following week.

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