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Brown hears arguments on Peterson motions

By Pete Spitler
Staff Writer
Posted on 4/22/2016, 2:42 PM

With less than a month to go before jury selection for his murder-for-hire trial, Drew Peterson was back in Randolph County Court on Friday.

Attorneys on both sides of the case argued three motions - to limit the impeachment of Individual A, to suppress evidence from allegedly inaudible portions of the recordings at the center of the case, and to clarify a decision from Circuit Court Judge Richard A. Brown on a motion from April 2015.

Assistant Attorney Generals Bill Elward and Steve Nate, from the Illinois Attorney General"s Office, accompanied Randolph County State"s Attorney Jeremy Walker at the prosecutor"s table and Elward wasted no time in arguing over a perceived delayed discovery in the case.

"We"re trying this case in the dark," Elward said, referring to defense witnesses' testimony related to conversations with Individual A.

Elward stated defense attorney Lucas Liefer has not yet provided the State with copies of the conversations between Peterson and several inmates - whom Elward stated included Albert Chavez, Jesus Padilla, Glenn Barrett and Shelly McGree.

Elward said Chavez may testify to his relationship to Antonio Smith and Peterson, before Elward corrected himself to say "Individual A."

"We still don"t have a copy of the conversations between Chavez and Peterson," Elward said.

According to the Illinois Department of Corrections" offender database, McGree and Padilla are inmates at Menard Correctional Center - where Peterson is serving his 38-year sentence for killing third wife Kathleen Savio.

Both Barrett and Chavez are inmates at Lawrence Correctional Center. Chavez was stated to have been housed in Menard"s protective custody (PC) unit at the time when the conversations took place.

"Where are those reports?" Elward asked. "Where are the summaries of those statements?"

In his rebuttal, Liefer said he addressed the substance of what was said in February and said the State "dumped a ton of discovery" on him on April 1, including "witnesses I"ve never heard of."

"They have three attorneys sitting there who are getting paid and I haven"t gotten a dime," Liefer said.

April 1 was previously stated as the deadline for any motions to be filed in the case.

"The rules say if you"re going to have someone testify on an oral conversation, you have to provide a summary of the conversation," Brown said to Liefer.

Elward noted that Liefer has nine investigators working on the case and urged Brown to bar the previously mentioned witnesses from trial.

"Mr. Liefer has told us time and time again he"s going to get us those reports and that hasn"t happened," he said.

Brown told the prosecution that it has a right to know what witnesses are going to say prior to the trial and gave Liefer a deadline of April 25 to produce a summary of the witness conversations.

"I want more than that," Elward said. "I want what these witnesses told investigators."

Motion to clarify

The counsel on both sides asked for clarification on a response by Brown to a motion to admit relevant evidence in the case.

"While the Court finds that much of the evidence which the state desires may be relevant to prove motive, the Court will not rule on the admissibility of the evidence until it is offered at trial," Brown said in a October 2015 response. "The prejudicial effect of this evidence to defendant must be determined in light of other evidence which has been introduced at trial by state.

"It is premature for the Court to rule at this time."

During a lengthy discussion on Friday, Brown allowed the prosecution to use Will County State"s Attorney James Glasgow - who prosecuted Peterson"s original murder conviction and whom Peterson is accused of trying to find someone to kill - as a witness during the prosecution"s opening statements of the trial.

Elward stated that Glasgow is needed to provide some background to the jury on Peterson"s history, otherwise the statements on the recording "make no sense."

"He talks about Savio, he talks about Stacy (Peterson), he talks about his son losing his job, which he blames Glasgow for," Elward said.

Elward said Glasgow would provide a framework for what happened and demonstrate the animosity Peterson has toward Glasgow.

"The evidence you want to present is highly prejudicial to the defendant," Brown cautioned Elward.

Elward said Glasgow would show why Peterson hates him.

"That"s the bedrock core of this case," he said.

Liefer argued that the prosecution wanted to have a "mini-trial" about what happened in Will County.

"I"m saying they"re getting into it more than they say they"re getting into it," he said.

Brown said prosecutors will have to give a summary of what Glasgow will say during the opening statements.

"I understand for a fair representation in your case, you have to show the jury what you intend to prove," Brown said.

Motion to suppress

Liefer stated that the State had produced transcripts of the recordings, but that there were more than 3,700 inaudible portions of them.

"I think they are, as a whole, untrustworthy based upon the number of inaudible recordings," he said.

Walker said Liefer has had the recordings for more than a year and questioned the timeliness of the motion.

"Why are we, four weeks before we pick a jury, now bringing them up to the court?" he asked.

Walker stated that the transcripts contain more than 100,000 words and only 3,700 are suspect.

"Ninety-six percent of the time, roughly, there"s not a problem," he said.

Walker argued that the transcripts aren"t evidence, while the recordings are.

"As long as you have clear meaning, you"re good," he said.

Brown said the arguments come down to the weight of the evidence and explaining why it"s no good.

"Let me take a look at your transcripts and I"ll make a decision," he said.

The parties agreed to return for a final pretrial conference on May 13 at 9 a.m.

"It is my understanding (Brown) will make a decision prior to that date," Walker said in a follow-up interview.