(JOLIET, Ill.) — Former Illinois cop Drew Peterson was found guilty today of killing his wife, Kathleen Savio, and making it look like an accident in 2004.
The jury returned a verdict after two days of deliberations, just an hour after stopping discussions to ask the judge the meaning of the word “unanimous.”
Peterson now faces up to 60 years in prison. He will be sentenced in November.
Peterson’s third wife, Kathleen Savio, was found dead in her bathtub in 2004, and her death was initially ruled an accident. However, after Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, disappeared without a trace in 2007, police exhumed Savio’s body and reexamined it, changing their finding to homicide.
Peterson was then charged with first-degree murder.
The jury stopped their deliberations just an hour before reaching their verdict to ask the judge the meaning of the word “unanimous.”
“Just to be clear, judge, what does unanimous mean?” read a note sent by jurors to Judge Edward Burmila this afternoon.
Judge Edward Burmila, who has overseen the six-week murder trial of the former Bolingbrook, Ill., police sergeant, wrote a note back to jurors explaining the meaning and referring the jurors back to the jury instructions he gave Tuesday morning.
“The word unanimous indicates the agreement of all on the matter at hand,” the note said.
On Tuesday, after they began deliberations, they asked the judge to let them hear key witness testimony reread aloud.
Peterson has denied any involvement in Savio’s death and Stacy Peterson’s disappearance. He has never been charged in connection with Stacy’s case.
His attorney, Joel Brodsky, said Peterson was “anxious” ahead of the verdict.
“He’s a bit anxious but prepared emotionally for whatever happens,” Brodsky said Tuesday.
The five-week long trial in Joliet was plagued by legal battles between Peterson’s attorneys and prosecutors over which evidence would be allowed in court. Much of the testimony in the case was hearsay, based on statements that Savio and Stacy Peterson made to friends and acquaintances, portraying Peterson as violent and threatening.
Stacy Peterson’s divorce attorney, hired before she disappeared, testified that Stacy had asked him about telling authorities that Drew Peterson had killed Savio.
Peterson’s attorneys called for a mistrial three times during the course of the trial after prosecutors introduced evidence to the jury that was not approved by Burmila. They withdrew their final request.
In closing arguments on Tuesday, both sides focused on the testimony of their expert witnesses, forensic pathologists who testified about the injuries found on Savio’s body. The defense presented experts who testified that Savio’s injuries clearly pointed to an accidental death, while the prosecution’s experts said the injuries indicated a brutal murder.
Prosecutors reminded the jury that a witness called by the defense admitted that the chance of a healthy adult drowning in a bathtub was “one in a million.”
“Drew Peterson had the motive and means to make his third wife, Kathleen Savio’s bathtub drowning look like an accident,” prosecutor Chris Koch said.
Peterson’s defense attorneys, however, remained committed to the fact that there are no eyewitness accounts and there is no physical evidence tying Peterson to the scene of Savio’s death.
“There [are] no witnesses or scientific evidence that place Drew at the house. They can’t even prove that Ms. Savio was the victim of a homicide,” defense attorney Michael Lopez said in his closing argument, according to ABC station WLS-TV. “They’re trying to nail Jell-O to a tree — it’s an accident, it’s an accident, pure and simple.”
“The state has not proved this case beyond a reasonable doubt; this case is riddled with doubt like a piece of Swiss cheese,” he said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
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