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Ex-cop Drew Peterson pleads not guilty

Former police officer Drew Peterson pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Monday on first-degree murder charges in the 2004 slaying of his third wife, Kathleen Savio.
Drew Peterson Is Arraigned On Murder Charges
Drew Peterson is escorted from the Will County Courthouse after his arraignment Monday in Joliet, Ill.Scott Olson / Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

Former police officer Drew Peterson pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Monday on first-degree murder charges in the 2004 slaying of his third wife, Kathleen Savio.

Peterson's attorney, Joel Brodsky, had been expected to ask a judge to reduce Peterson's bond, which is now $20 million.

But that request will have to wait until at least Thursday after the prosecution asked that the judge handling his murder case be removed.

Brodsky entered a not guilty plea on Peterson's behalf as his client stood silently in court Monday, wearing a blue jail jumpsuit and shackles.

Prosecutors then asked that Judge Richard Schoenstedt be removed from Peterson's case. Brodsky is challenging that move, and Will County Chief Judge Gerald Kinney is slated to hold a hearing on the issue Thursday.

Savio's 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.

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."

And that, attorneys say, could be one of Peterson's 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."

Court of public opinion
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 joking around is how Peterson deals with stress.

"In a tight, uncomfortable situation, you're gonna get humor and wisecracks," said Brodsky.

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."