Published January 14, 2015
A change of judge was granted Thursday in the Illinois murder trial of former police officer Drew Peterson, charged with killing his third wife and staging it to look like an accidental drowning.
Prosecutors filed a motion earlier this week asking that Will County Judge Richard Schoenstedt be replaced on the grounds that he is biased against them.
They haven't elaborated, but Schoenstedt ruled against them in a gun case involving Peterson, prompting them to drop the charges.
Defense attorney Joel Brodsky contested the judge's removal during a hearing Thursday afternoon.
Peterson is charged with first-degree murder in the 2004 drowning death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio.
Brodsky also wants Peterson's $20 million bail to be reduced.
Brodsky entered a not guilty plea on Peterson's behalf Monday as his client stood silently in court, wearing a blue jail jumpsuit and shackles.
Brodsky told FOX News earlier this week before Peterson's court appearance that they would ask for the bond to be $500,000 or less.
"To say he is one sided is absolutely incorrect," Brodsky said of the prosecutors' claims, adding they will file an appeal that requests the state to give specific reasons for their request. "This is the chief judge for the criminal division for this county. This [the motion] is quite extraordinary."
Peterson has been in custody since his May 7 arrest on first-degree murder charges in Savio's death.
Her death was originally ruled an accident. But after Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy, disappeared in 2007, Savio's body was exhumed. Authorities reclassified the death as a homicide after an autopsy.
Savio's family alleged that authorities originally staged a cover-up, but after Stacy's death they couldn't turn a blind eye.
"My feeling is that because he's a cop, sometimes cops stick together," said her brother Nick Savio. "I think the first time the state police stuck together and it was probably a coverup. Drew knew alot of people."
He believes the motive for his sister's death was money.
"She was set to get half his pension and he didn't want to get his children taken away from him," Nick Savio said. "Finally, he is getting what he deserves."
Peterson, 55, has denied any involvement in Savio's death or Stacy Peterson's disappearance.
But his numerous media appearances, where he has gained a reputation for making smart-aleck remarks, could play a big role as prosecutors try to lock him up.
Peterson, of suburban Bolingbrook, has never shied from the media, seeming to relish the spotlight and often offering reporters a joke. As he was led to his first court appearance this month, he referred to his prison-issued jumpsuit as a "spiffy outfit."
His attorney told FOX News that they've told him making these comments would, "not be in his best interest," but Brodsky said Peterson maintains it's how he reacts to stress and pressure."
"He said it's almost an imvoluntary act," Brodsky said.
Peterson said he wouldn't behave any other way.
"Would it be better if I hid my head down and tried to hide my face and hunched and had tears in my eyes?" he asked NBC's Matt Lauer during a telephone interview aired on the "Today" show Friday. "I mean, no, that's just not me."
Melissa Doman said she thinks Peterson is starting to understand the severity of the charges.
"I've seen him walking around for five years with that smug smirk. It's gone," she said.
Attorneys say Peterson's mouth could be one of his 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 attorney 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."
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 originally was ruled an accident, but after Stacy Peterson went missing, Savio's body was exhumed and authorities ruled it a homicide staged to look like an accident.
Even if the videos of Drew Peterson's arrival in court or of his interviews don't make it into trial, they can still have an effect.
"Whether it's admissible or not is one thing ..." said Joe Tacopina, a prominent defense attorney in New York. "But it's certainly admissible in the court of public opinion, which is your jury pool."
Peterson's attorney said his client's spirits have not derailed by the motion to get a judge.
"He is rolling with the punches," said Brodsky. "As long as his children are doing OK, he can take whatever is thrown at him.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.