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Drew Peterson Found Guilty Of First-Degree Murder

By Chuck Sudo in News on Sep 6, 2012 8:40PM

Peterson's mugshot courtesy the Will County Sheriff's office, via NBC 5

Drew Peterson, the former Bolingbrook police sergeant who became a national media sensation with his flippant attitude after his fourth wife Stacy went missing in 2007, was convicted of murdering his third wife Kathleen Savio in 2004.

The jury in the trial, which made their own headlines for the way they coordinated their wardrobe throughout the trial, deliberated 14 hours over two days before reaching the verdict. There was speculation earlier Thursday there would not be a unanimous decision after the jury sent a letter asking Will County Judge Edward Burmilia that read, "Just to be clear, judge, what does unanimous mean?"

Over objections from prosecutors, Burmila responded to the jury.

"The word unanimous has its common meaning. It indicates the agreement of all on the matter at hand. Your verdict must be unanimous and signed by all."

Burmila could have said, "Think about how you decided to dress every day. That's 'unanimous.'"

The original autopsy of Kathleen Savio eight years ago ruled that she accidentally drowned in a dry bathtub in her home. After the media frenzy that surrounded Stacy Peterson's disappearance, the Savio case was re-opened and a second autopsy concluded there was enough evidence to charge Drew Peterson with murder in May 2009.

Peterson has been in jail for over three years as his defense team and prosecutors argued over whether hearsay statements—some made by Savio herself—could be used as evidence against him. The Illinois State Senate passed the so-called "hearsay" law in 2008. The Illinois Third District Court of Appeals ruled in April that those statements could be used. Peterson's defense team later dropped their challenge in order to bring the trial.

The prosecution dodged a couple of bullets early in the trial when their opening statements and lines of questioning witnesses led to Peterson's attorneys requesting a mistrial. Peterson's lead defense attorney, Joel Brodsky, made his own mistake by allowing Savio's divorce attorney, Harry Smith, to take the stand and testify that Stacy Peterson told him that Drew Peterson told her that he killed Savio. Stacy Peterson's pastor, Neil Schori, also testified to that effect during the trial.

Peterson's defense team is expected to appeal the verdict, almost certainly based on the hearsay testimony.

Other stories from the Peterson saga, listed in chronological order: