Continual coverage of the trial of
Dr. Larry Blum has completed his testimony, and Judge Edward Burmila has sent jurors home for the day. Testimony is scheduled to continue Friday morning.
3:45 p.m. Source of bruises? 'I don't know'
Dr. Larry Blum testified he doesn't know for sure whether or not the three bruises on Kathleen Savio's hip area came from injuries unrelated to her death in the bathtub.
"Dr Blum you don't know if she banged into a drawer do you?" asked defense attorney Ralph Mecyzk.
"I do not," Blum said.
"You don't know if (the bruising came) during the course of having…at some point having aggressive or rough sexual intercourse do you?" Mecyzk asked, referring to Savio having sex with her boyfriend the Friday night before she was found dead.
"I suppose that's within the realm of possibility – I don't know, let's put it that way," Blum replied.
After sparring with Dr. Larry Blum over his interpretation of slides that he testified showed deep bruising on Kathleen Savio's left hip area, defense attorney Ralph Mecyzk questioned him about what was found under Savio's fingernails.
Prosecutors have alleged Drew Peterson placed Savio in a choke hold until she was unconscious and then drowned her in her bathtub.
Meczyk questioned Blum about why no evidence supporting that theory was found under Savio's fingernails.
"You would expect that during a struggle, there would be…DNA or tissue underneath the fingernails, correct?" he asked
"Yes if the victim scratched the assailant, there may be — correct," Blum replied.
"There was no male DNA identified is that correct?" Meczyk asked.
"That's correct," Blum replied.
Dr. Larry Blum testified under cross-examination by Ralph Meczyk that he hadn't changed his opinion that Kathleen Savio's death was a homicide even after reviewing reports from three defense experts who found it was an accident.
"Now we have three eminent pathologists opining that that the manner of death was an accident," Meczyk said, a comment that State's Attorney James Glasgow successfully objected to.
And "despite their opinion you say homicide?" Meczyk asked.
"Well, I haven't changed my opinion, that's correct," Blum said.
Meczyk has repeatedly used laudatory terms to refer to the defense experts, including calling them "world-renowned." The judge has striken the remarks after Glasgow objected.
1:30 p.m. Judge explains 'blow my brains out' joke
Before bringing jurors back in for this afternoon’s testimony, Judge Edward Burmila took a moment to address a joking comment he made on Wednesday.
Burmila had said, after frustration over repeated attorney gaffes, that he now understood how a former Will County judge had felt when he remarked that "there's nothing left to do but for me to blow my brains out."
"I have gotten so many emails and texts from people I know because of media reports (about my joke)," he said to some laughter.
Burmila repeated that his remark was that he understood why a former Will County judge felt that way.
"I didn't want any of my family or my friends to worry — I'm not going to do that," he said to some laughter.
Dr. Larry Blum agreed that Dr. Bryan Mitchell believed the gash on the back of Kathleen Savio's head may have been accidental, though Mitchell was not authorized to rule on the manner of death.
"In the comments section, Dr. Mitchell wrote, 'The laceration to the posterior scalp may have been related to a fall in which she struck her head,' correct?" defense attorney Ralph Meczyk asked.
"Correct," Blum said.
"It was his opinion that her death was related to a fall, correct?" Meczyk pressed.
"His finding was that her cause of death was drowning," Blum said.
The trial recessed until 1:15 p.m. for lunch.
11:45 a.m. Doctor questioned about first autopsy
Dr. Larry Blum said during cross-examination that his former colleague Dr. Bryan Mitchell was a well respected forensic
Mitchell, now deceased, performed the original autopsy on Kathleen Savio in 2004 which Blum relied on heavily in making his finding that Savio's death was a homicide. After the first autopsy, a coroner's jury ruled Savio's death was an accident.
"The findings made by your respected colleague stated in that (autopsy report) 'no significant trauma,' correct?" defense attorney Ralph Meczyk asked.
"That is correct," Blum said.
In what has become a continuing theme, the jurors heard only a few minutes of testimony from Dr. Larry Blum before the state lodged an objection and the jury was removed.
So far today, jurors have spent far more time in the jury room than in the jury box, and several of them are noticeably irritated at the constant interruptions.
When testimony resumed, defense attorney Ralph Meczyk pressed Blum on whether he spoke with State's Atty. James Glasgow prior to Blum's autopsy of Kathleen Savio's remains in 2007.
Blum said he couldn't recall such a meeting, and Meczyk asked the question a second time, prompting an objection from the prosecution team.
"Objection, asked and answered," Glasgow said.
"No, he did not answer the question," Meczyk snapped.
"Mr. Meczyk!" Burmila said. "I will rule on objections."
Cross examination of Dr. Larry Blum is about to begin after a lengthy delay while the defense team set up a microscope and projection system in the courtroom.
Forensic pathologist Larry Blum testified that he ruled out suicide because there was no history of suicidal thoughts or prior attempts by Savio.
Her death was not accidental, he said, because adults do not drown in bathtubs unless they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol or they have physical maladies such as epilepsy and other neural or muscular conditions that incapacitate them.
As jurors took noted furiously, Blum said he concluded a fall would not have left her with a gash to the back of her head and an array of bruises on the front of her body. Furthermore, she did not have any bruises or injuries to her arms that would have indicated she tried to stop herself from falling, he said.
State's Atty. James Glasgow asked Blum if he reached a conclusion on the how Savio died.
"Yes," Blum said.
"And what was that?" Glasgow asked.
"Homicide," Blum replied.
Testimony from Dr. Larry Blum, who determined in 2007 that Kathleen Savio's drowning was a homicide, is expected to resume this morning.
Others on today’s prosecution witness list include: Kyle Toutges, who is
Toutges testified during a pretrial hearing in 2010 that he overheard Drew Peterson say "let them prove it" when Peterson's friends suggested it "looked bad" for him to have his ex-wife die during their tumultuous custody and property battle.
"Our family gave Drew the benefit of the doubt," Kyle Toutges testified. "We were told Kathleen was crazy and on drugs and needed to be in a home."
Defense attorneys this morning filed a motion to bar Toutges from testifying.
Rossetto, who traded raunchy text messages with Stacy shortly before she disappeared in 2007, testified at a pretrial hearing that Drew Peterson coaxed her into providing a false alibi for the weekend of Savio's death.
Schoon was living in Drew Peterson's home at the time of Savio's death, Schoon's attorney said in 2008.
Testimony continues today from a pathologist who performed a second autopsy on Kathleen Savio and concluded her death in 2004 could not have been an accident.
The testimony by forensic
Defense attorneys withdrew their motion for a mistrial in the morning, and then after yet another perceived prosecution misstep, Burmila chided prosecutors for being disrespectful and joked about blowing his brains out in frustration.
The bizarre banter, which jurors did not hear, came amid testimony crucial to the state's attempt to prove that
Blum, a Rockford forensic pathologist who performed the second autopsy on Savio after her body was exhumed in 2007, testified that the pattern of injuries on Savio's body, the death scene and her position in the tub were inconsistent with drowning after slipping and striking her head.
Healthy 40-year-old women like Savio don't accidentally drown in bathtubs unless they are drunk or drugged, and toxicological testing found that she was neither of those, Blum testified. He previously testified that her death was a homicide.
Savio's death was first treated as an accident but was reinvestigated after Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy, vanished in 2007. Peterson is the sole suspect in Stacy's disappearance but has not been charged.
Blum estimated that various injuries found on Savio's body were no more than 24 hours old at the time of her death. He also said there were no sharp edges on Savio's tub that could cause the large cut on the back of her head.
Prosecutors believe Peterson used a chokehold to render Savio unconscious, held her head underwater until she drowned and then struck her on the back of her head, perhaps with his police baton.
But they have no physical evidence tying him to the bathroom where Savio died.
Blum's testimony, however, did not escape the courtroom drama that has come to define the trial thus far.
The latest donnybrook came when Blum testified that he climbed into the Bolingbrook tub where Savio died. Burmila had previously barred any reference to a re-creation of the drowning.
That led defense attorney Ralph Meczyk to ask that Blum's testimony be stricken, arguing that prosecutors have treated Burmila like "a potted plant."
State's Attorney James Glasgow apologized to the judge and said it was a mistake by Blum, who had been told not to talk about it. Glasgow admitted he had lost a little concentration after being on his feet questioning Blum for more than an hour.
"I was getting a little woozy, and I was trying to pay attention to what he was saying … again we were not getting toward a re-creation (of the drowning)," Glasgow said.
Burmila opted to instruct jurors to disregard the statement but warned prosecutors that he did not want to address any more violations of his orders.
"Yesterday it was a brain cramp; today it is wooziness," Burmila scoffed. "The circumstances … are creating the aura that this court is somehow toothless.
"The disrespect for the court in that regard is shocking to the conscience."
Burmila recalled practicing as an attorney before Judge Angelo Pistilli, who died in 1994 and whose name is now on Courtroom 407 where the Peterson trial is being held.
"Before he would reach a ruling … he would say, 'Or in the alternative, I guess there's nothing left to do but for me to blow my brains out,'" Burmila said. "I've never really understood what he meant by that. But the public display of the state's obvious disregard for the orders of this court is replete in the record."
The day began with Peterson backing off his call for a mistrial after a prosecutor Tuesday asked a question that Burmila had forbidden hours earlier.
Though Burmila might have granted a mistrial — essentially starting the entire procedure from the beginning — Peterson was only interested in a mistrial with prejudice, which would vacate the charges against him.
In informing the judge of his decision, defense attorney Joseph Lopez said Peterson wanted to have his case heard by the current jury and did "not want to hide behind any legal technicalities."
"Drew Peterson wants the world to know he's not afraid, nor will he hide," Lopez told Burmila.
The decision to withdraw the mistrial motion, however, was not based solely on Peterson's gut feeling about this jury or his desire to face his accusers. He and his defense team also considered whether they wanted to give the prosecution — which got off to a bumpy start — a chance to correct those mistakes at a second trial, his attorneys said.
Peterson also had to weigh what a retrial would mean to his lawyers, sources close to those discussions said. His attorneys are all working for free, and some indicated they could not afford to stay for a second go-around. In the end, Peterson decided he did not want to dismantle his legal team, those sources said.