Peterson's words may affect murder case
CHICAGO - Drew Peterson might not take the stand if he goes to trial on charges alleging he killed his third wife, but his words could still play a big role as prosecutors try to put him away.
The former police officer, facing arraignment today on first-degree murder charges in the 2004 drowning death of his former wife Kathleen Savio, has never shied from the media that has followed his every move since his fourth wife, Stacy, vanished in 2007 and he became a suspect in Savio's death.
In fact, he has seemed to relish the spotlight, often giving reporters a joke or smart-aleck remark - like smiling and calling his handcuffs "bling" when he was led to his first court appearance this month.
And that, attorneys say, could be one of Peterson's biggest problems.
"If one wife goes missing and [another] wife is dead, those aren't usually the subject of jokes," said Roy Black, a defense lawyer whose clients have included Rush Limbaugh and William Kennedy Smith.
"People are going to think this is a very bizarre person, who's more likely to have committed murder than someone who is in mourning," Black said.
Peterson is accused of drowning Savio, who was found dead in a dry bathtub in 2004 with a gash on the back of her head.
Her death was initially ruled an accident, but after Stacy Peterson went missing Savio's body was exhumed and authorities ruled her death a homicide staged to look like an accident.
Marilyn Brenneman, a senior deputy prosecutor in Seattle's King County, once won a murder conviction after showing jurors a video of a news conference given by a man charged in a drowning death.
"We used it to show his attitude was blase," she said. "He was kind of wooden and didn't show any emotion. . . . That is not really an appropriate response."
Defense lawyer Mark Geragos has seen what a defendant's own words can do to a case.
"Some of the most compelling evidence the jury can see is prejudicial but unfortunately it's compelling," Geragos said.