Jurors Hear Closing Arguments in Peterson Case

Each team was given roughly two hours to state their case

By BJ Lutz
|  Wednesday, Sep 5, 2012  |  Updated 2:46 PM EDT
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After a lengthy day of closing arguments, the fate of Drew Peterson rests in the jury's hands. NBC 5's Kim Vatis reports on the final day of closing arguments in the courtroom.

After a lengthy day of closing arguments, the fate of Drew Peterson rests in the jury's hands. NBC 5's Kim Vatis reports on the final day of closing arguments in the courtroom.

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Prosecutors on Tuesday asked the jury in the first-degree murder trial against Drew Peterson to focus on the witnesses who said the former police officers threatened his third wife -- and was therefore capable of killing her. Defense attorneys, meanwhile, stressed the lack of evidence.

In the roughly 70 minutes he commanded the floor, Assistant State's Attorney Chris Koch several times implored jurors to use their everyday experiences and keep their common sense in mind.

"It is clear that this man murdered Kathleen Savio," Koch told the jurors before reminding jurors of the significant points they'd heard throughout the last five weeks of testimony.

Peterson, a former Bolingbrook police sergeant, is charged in the 2004 drowning death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. Prosecutors allege Peterson killed his wife and staged it to look like an accident.

Koch told jurors that Peterson had the intent and motive kill Savio.

“I'm going to kill you, you are not going to make it to the divorce settlement. You're not going to get the pensions, you're not going to get the kids. That is the statement the defendant made to the victim weeks before her death. And you know what, ladies and gentlemen, that threat became reality," said Koch.

Pathology experts, Koch said, showed that the injuries Savio sustained -- 14 separate wounds -- could not have happened in a single fall in a bathtub that measures just 40 inches from the back to the drain.

"It's not possible," he said.

Jurors were reminded that Savio told several people that she feared her husband would kill her, and they were told to recall the testimony from a cable installer who said Peterson tried to hire him to find a hit man.

Unable to find one, Koch said Peterson broke into his estranged wife's home in the early morning hours before March 1, 2004.

"He went into that house, pushed her down, held her down until she inhaled fluid and drowned," he said.

Later, when Savio's body was removed from the home, Peterson went back to inside to wash blood from the tub, Koch said, citing witness testimony.

"Are you kidding me?!" he screamed. "What in the world is he doing there? Murderers sometimes go back to the crime scene."

He pleaded with the jurors to put all of that information together and draw "reasonable inferences from them." 

Those inferences would lead to a guilty verdict, he said.

But attorney Joe Lopez, speaking on behalf of the defense, said prosecutors had done little more than present "garbage evidence" to the jurors.

"You don't have to like Mr. Peterson. But you have to like that flag. You have to like America," he said, pounding the podium.

He evoked the memories of the nation's Founding Fathers, claiming they'd "barf of this evidence."

"We don't do that to people in America," he told the jurors. "You are the final check and balances. You make sure the government ain't going wild."

Lopez attacked assertions that the initial investigation into Savio's was botched and pointed out that no one asked Peterson is he killed his wife because everyone could see it was an accident.

"Look at the gash in the back of her head. It's as big as the Grand Canyon. You could stick your fist in there," he said, drawing gasps from those gathered in an overflow courtroom.

Jurors were expected to receive the case Tuesday afternoon but because of the length of the attorneys' arguments were sent home late in the afternoon. They'll get the case Wednesday after receiving instructions from Judge Edward Burmila.

The closing arguments clearly were clearly a highly-anticipated event. Members of the public, an official said, began showing up outside the courthouse at about 1 a.m. Monday in hopes of getting one of the few available spectator seats.

Prosecutors have no physical evidence tying Peterson to the death and waged a case based on hearsay testimony and circumstantial evidence. Hearsay, or statements not based on the direct knowledge of a witness, isn't usually admissible in court, but Illinois passed a law in 2008, dubbed "Drew's Law," that allows it in rare circumstances.

If convicted, Peterson faces up to 60 years in prison.

NBC Chicago has reporters in the Will County Courthouse for the trial. During proceedings, follow along with our Drew Peterson Trial Live Blog or follow @bjlutz on Twitter.

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