Judge mulls mistrial request in Peterson case

Judge Edward Burmila called a recess Wednesday morning and said he would reconvene proceedings in the afternoon to announce his decision

Associated Press

JOLIET, Ill. — The judge at the Drew Peterson murder trial is considering a mistrial request from defense attorneys.

Judge Edward Burmila called a recess Wednesday morning and said he would reconvene proceedings in the afternoon to announce his decision.

The judge sent jurors out of the courtroom earlier in the day before grilling a prosecutor for allowing a witness to mention a bullet and leave the impression that Peterson left it in the witness' driveway.

Prosecutors argued against a mistrial, denying repetitive errors.

Peterson was charged in the 2004 death of his third wife after his fourth wife went missing in 2007.

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.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

The judge presiding over Drew Peterson's murder trial sent the jury from the courtroom Wednesday after a neighbor testified about finding a bullet on the former suburban Chicago police officer's driveway.

Judge Edward Burmilla furiously grilled prosecutor Kathleen Patton about why she allowed witness she called, Thomas Pontarelli, to mention finding a .38-caliber bullet and to leave the impression that it may have been left there by Peterson.

Burmilla then called a recess to allow the defense to decide whether to ask him to declare a mistrial. Burmilla appeared close to doing so Tuesday after the head prosecutor began to mention a suspicion that Peterson once tried to hire a hit man.

Peterson is charged with first-degree murder in the 2004 drowning death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. Pontarelli, his wife and others discovered Savio's body in a bathtub in her home.

Prosecutors allege that Peterson killed Savio and tried to make her death look accidental.

Peterson, 58, denies wrongdoing in Savio's death and the 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson. He is a suspect in Stacy Peterson's disappearance but hasn't been charged.

In his opening Tuesday, defense attorney Joel Brodsky told jurors repeatedly there was no evidence that Savio's death was anything but a tragic accident.

"You will hear nothing but myth, rumor, innuendo and hearsay," Brodsky said about the prosecution's case. "You have a man's life in your hands ... deal with facts."

And those facts, he said, will come in large part from three pathologists who will testify that _ despite what prosecutors say and what the autopsy apparently revealed after Savio's body was exhumed _ her death remains an accident.

Peterson was only charged in Savio's death after Stacy Peterson disappeared.

Copyright 2012 Associated Press

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