JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — The judge in the Drew Peterson murder trial has adjourned early and delayed a decision on declaring a mistrial.
A legal drama erupted Wednesday after a state witness let slip testimony that defense lawyers claim irreparably tainted jurors.
Instead of ruling immediately on the defense's mistrial motion, the judge granted a request to let Peterson's lawyers think through the matter until Thursday morning.
The witness, Thomas Pontarelli, mentioned on the stand that he once found a .38-caliber bullet in his driveway and believed Peterson planted it there to intimidate him.
Peterson is accused of killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio. Pontarelli was her neighbor.
With jurors out of the room, Judge Edward Burmila blasted prosecutors for working in the testimony. He called it a new "low."
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JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — The judge in Drew Peterson's murder trial considered Wednesday whether to declare a mistrial after blasting prosecutors for a second time in less than two days for bringing up information he said could prejudice the jury against the former police officer.
A furious Judge Edward Burmila sent jurors out of the courtroom before grilling prosecutor Kathleen Patton for allowing a witness to mention a bullet and leave the impression that Peterson left it in the witness' driveway. Burmila then took a recess to allow defense attorneys to file a motion for mistrial.
"It can't be reckless, it is intentional," Peterson attorney Steve Greenberg told the judge when court reconvened, arguing that prosecutors violated court orders.
Peterson was charged in the 2004 death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, after his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, went missing in 2007. Drew Peterson is suspected in her disappearance but hasn't been charged.
Patton said prosecutors didn't deliberately try to get the witness, former Peterson neighbor Thomas Pontarelli, to mention that he found the .38-caliber bullet on his driveway.
The judge appeared close to declaring a mistrial Tuesday after a prosecutor began to discuss an allegation that Peterson once tried to hire a hit man.
Prosecutors contend Peterson killed Savio and tried to make it look like an accident. Defense attorney Joel Brodsky told jurors repeatedly during his opening statement that there was no evidence Savio's death was anything but a tragic accident.
Peterson's real-life drama inspired a TV movie starring Rob Lowe, and many speculated whether the former police sergeant used his law-enforcement expertise to get away with Savio's murder and make 23-year-old Stacy Peterson vanish.
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