Judge Edward Burmila of the Illinois Twelfth Judicial Circuit Court has again been called upon by defense attorneys for Drew Peterson to declare a mistrial in following improper conduct by prosecutors.
Peterson is on trial for first-degree murder for his suspected involvement in the 2004 death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. Savio's death was initially classified as an accidental death after she was found dead in a dry bathtub at her home. However, after Stacy Peterson, Peterson's fourth wife disappeared in 2007, investigators took another look at the circumstances of Savio's death and reclassified it as a homicide.
Tuesday, Burmilia instructed prosecutors not the question a witness about whether Savio had sought an order of protection against Peterson. However, when prosecutor Kathleen Patton did just that, Burmilia excused the jury and reprimanded Patton, scolding,"There was one thing I told you not to go into and that's exactly what you did."
A mistrial allows a judge to cancel a trial prior to the return of a verdict under certain circumstances such as when:
- Evidence is improperly admitted.
- An attorney, party to the case, or juror engages in misconduct.
- The jury is "hung", i.e. they cannot reach a unanimous verdict.
- A juror or jurors are disqualified and there are no alternate juror(s) available.
Generally, the declaration of a mistrial will result in a retrial of the case, however, in some circumstances, a judge can grant a mistrial "with prejudice," which prohibits retrial. Peterson's defense attorneys asked for a mistrial with prejudice, citing several instances when prosecutors broached subjects they were instructed not to. Peterson's defense attorney, Joel Brodsky claimed "It is an avalanche of prejudicial, illegal evidence that is polluting this jury. To have this many…errors, how can the defendant get a fair trial?"
Peterson's situation demonstrates the complexity of the criminal justice system and emphasizes the accused's need for experienced criminal legal representation. If you have been arrested for a crime, contact an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney at DiCaudo, Pitchford & Yoder today.