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Peterson judge mulls DuPage Co. case opinion
Famed pathologist will be allowed to testify
By Christy Gutowski | Daily Herald Staff

Drew Peterson

 

Kathleen Savio

 

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Published: 7/2/2010 5:17 PM

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Drew Peterson prosecutors asked a Will County judge Friday to reconsider his decision barring some hearsay evidence in light of a recent Illinois Supreme Court ruling for a condemned Naperville man who killed his family.

Judge Stephen White has barred the majority of more than a dozen hearsay statements that prosecutors argue bolster their case that Peterson killed his third wife for financial reasons as he began a new life with his 30-year junior bride.

Peterson, 56, is accused of murdering Kathleen Savio in the couple's Bolingbrook home in 2004. Her death was initially ruled an accidental bathtub drowning, but authorities reclassified it a homicide after exhuming her body in late 2007, just weeks after Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy, vanished.

Jury selection begins July 8. Meanwhile, last week, the Illinois Supreme Court rejected Eric Hanson's appeal for the September 2005 quadruple slaying.

Hanson argued the judge erred in allowing testimony from his oldest sister, Jennifer Williams. Williams testified their slain sibling, Kate, told her six weeks before being fatally bludgeoned that Eric threatened to kill her if she ratted him out for stealing from their parents.

Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow cited the unanimous June 24 decision during a 30-minute closed courtroom hearing Friday as reason for White to reconsider part of his written hearsay ruling. For example, White barred Stacy's pastor, Neil Schori, from testifying that she admitted in a counseling session to providing Drew Peterson with a false alibi the weekend Savio died.

Schori still will be allowed to take the stand, but his testimony will be limited.

The judge also barred Stacy's similar confession to friend Scott Rossetto.

Attorneys for Peterson said they doubt White will budge. Glasgow may appeal to a higher court, which would delay the trial. His camp has declined to speculate.

Besides the Hanson issue, White ruled Friday that noted pathologist Dr. Michael Baden may testify for the prosecution. Baden performed a Nov. 16, 2007, autopsy after Savio's body was exhumed. He concluded Savio was beaten, then drowned. A state-hired pathologist reached a similar conclusion.

The defense team called Baden's autopsy "irretrievably compromised" since he, as a Fox News Channel contributor, was assisted by former freelance producer Steph Watts for "On the Record" with Greta Van Susteren.

Baden testified Watts helped him move the body, take notes and snap photographs. After reviewing those notes, defense attorneys said they found a telephone number for "Girls Gone Wild" producer Joe Francis.

On the witness stand Friday, Watts said Baden was mistaken. Watts denied touching the body and said the video of Baden was filmed during a break and did not include any autopsy footage. Prosecutors obtained the Fox video Friday for further review.

As for Francis' phone number, Watts explained he jotted it down during the autopsy while retrieving his telephone voice messages. At the time, Watts said, he was working on a story about the entrepreneur's legal woes over tax evasion.

In allowing Baden's testimony, Judge White said the jury can decide the pathologist's credibility and give his testimony the proper weight.