The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

AP story section

August 2, 2012

Judge: No mistrial in Drew Peterson murder case

JOLIET, Ill. — A judge decided against declaring a mistrial in Drew Peterson's murder case Thursday, criticizing prosecutors for entering inadmissible evidence but concluding the former police officer still can get a fair trial.

Testimony at the murder trial of the former police officer resumed shortly after the in-court legal drama that threatened to end the high-profile trial before it had barely begun.

The ruling by Judge Edward Burmila followed several blunders by prosecutors, who are seeking to prove the 58-year-old Peterson killed his third wife, Kathleen Savio, whose body was found in a dry bathtub in 2004. He also is a suspect in the 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, but has never been charged in her case.

Burmila made it clear Thursday that he seriously entertained the possibility of effectively cancelling the trial. But the judge, who had wondered aloud Wednesday whether the testimony made Peterson appear menacing in jurors' eyes and undermined his shot at a fair trial, said ending the trial was unnecessary.

"The court believes that the defendant's ability to receive a fair trial is not extinguished at this time," Burmila said.

Shortly after the ruling, testimony continued with prosecutors calling a paramedic to the stand in a bid to prove Peterson staged a scene, making it look like Savio died in a bathroom accident.

Louis Oleszkiewicz said a towel visible in a later investigation photo wasn't there when he was at the home on March 1, 2004. Prosecutors have suggested Peterson placed the towel there after paramedics arrived to ensure it looked like Savio had been taking a bath.

On Wednesday, a furious Burmila admonished prosecutors after a witness began testifying about finding a .38-caliber bullet on his driveway. Thomas Pontarelli, a former neighbor of Savio's, hinted that Peterson may have planted it there to intimidate him.

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