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Lawyers prepare for closing statements in Drew Peterson trial

By Steve Schmadeke and Stacy St. Clair, Chicago Tribune –

CHICAGO — Jurors in the Drew Peterson murder trial will hear closing arguments Tuesday morning after listening to five weeks of evidence in an unusual circumstantial case.

The former Bolingbrook, Ill., police sergeant, 58, is charged with drowning his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in a bathtub. Her death in 2004 was considered an accident until Peterson’s 23-year-old fourth wife, Stacy, went missing three years later.

Peterson’s trial in Will County has included a defense witness who testified Peterson’s fourth wife told him Peterson murdered Savio.

Defense attorney Joseph Lopez will give Peterson’s closing argument.

“All I know is this — I’m going to do the best I can,” he said. “It’s not going to be like any lawyer you’ve seen before. I break every rule in the book.”

Prosecutors haven’t yet explicitly presented their theory of the case — that Peterson put Savio in a police chokehold until she passed out and then drowned her in her bathtub. Will County Judge Edward Burmila repeatedly prevented the jury from hearing some testimony supporting that claim, ruling that the prosecution had not introduced any evidence proving Peterson was at the death scene.

The prosecution indicated last week that it would make those same inferences during closing arguments, despite expected objections from Peterson’s attorneys.

“What inferences they draw from evidence remains to be seen, and I’m not going to put any restrictions,” Burmila said Friday. “Defense can object at the time.”

Lopez’s closing argument is expected to hit what has been a consistent theme for defense attorneys since Peterson was charged in 2009 — that Savio’s death was an accident.

No physical evidence ties Peterson to Savio’s death, and prosecutors have built a circumstantial case that relies heavily on hearsay. But Lopez may have to combat a witness called by his fellow defense attorney Joel Brodsky.

Savio’s divorce attorney Harry Smith last week testified that Stacy called and asked him if she could use the fact that Peterson killed Savio to her advantage in a potential divorce.

Jurors did not hear that Stacy vanished about four days after the conversation with Smith. Peterson has not been charged in her disappearance, but prosecutors believe he killed her.

Assistant State’s Attorney Chris Koch will give the state’s closing argument with State’s Attorney James Glasgow providing the final words rebutting Lopez’s comments to jurors.

They declined to comment.

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