Drew Peterson's lawyer asked a judge this morning to order the return of guns, computers, two vehicles and other items seized from the former police sergeant's house by Illinois state police investigating the disappearance of Peterson's wife, Stacy, over six weeks ago.
The search warrants authorizing the seizure were "just too broad," argued lawyer John Carroll, who accused law enforcement officials of "attempting to vex Mr. Peterson" during "the holiday season" and pointedly refusing to treat him like everyone else. Peterson, 53, is a suspect in his wife's disappearance, but has not been charged.
Assistant state's attorney John Connor countered by explaining that the warrants had already been approved by a judge and accusing Peterson of "attempting to put a clock" on state investigators. "This is way early in the game," he said.
Judge Daniel Rozak of Will County, Ill., Circuit Court said he would issue a decision at a hearing Monday.
The brief session in the courtroom crowded with handcuffed prisoners, lawyers and others attending the court's regularly scheduled call for legal motions was the first public proceeding in the closely watched Peterson case.
Stacy Peterson, who is 23 and Peterson's fourth wife, disappeared Oct. 28 from her home in Bolingbrook, Ill. Peterson says he believes she left him for another man and is alive. But police are treating the case as a possible homicide and have executed four search warrants on Peterson's property, seizing iPods, compact discs and a child's knapsack in addition to the guns, computers and vehicles.
They have also reopened an investigation into the death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, whose body was found in a bathtub three years ago. At the time, a coroner's jury ruled her death an accidental drowning.
Throughout the six-week investigation a horde of reporters and other members of the media have camped in front of Peterson's house in Bolingbrook. Many of them attended today's hearing and listened as Carroll, dressed in a pinstriped suit and bright yellow tie, made his case in often colorful language.
"About 200 years ago," he began, "we had a small problem with the British." The problem was search warrants that described what police were looking for in overly general terms, he explained. This, he said, prompted Americans to require that a warrant be "specific as to the things seized" and supported by evidence that they are connected to an alleged crime.
Connor argued that there was no reason for police to take 11 firearms from Peterson's house unless they had a reasonable belief that "Mr. Peterson shot his wife using 11 different firearms. That's ludicrous."
Reading what he contended was one warrant's excessively general description of firearms, Connor asked, "Why not underpants?"
Connor also argued that investigators had held Peterson's GMC sport utility vehicle and Pontiac Coupe long enough. "They could have rebuilt the engine by now," he said. He urged the judge to order these items returned to Peterson, so he and his two young children "can proceed on and live a normal life."
Noting that "we certainly covered a lot of territory this morning" and promising "not to go back 200 years," state's attorney Connor stressed that a judge had already ruled that there was probable cause supporting the seizure of the property and that investigators had a right to take the time required to examine the property thoroughly. He also confirmed that law enforcement officials had agreed to promptly return two iPods and 23 compact discs of music to Peterson.
Although Peterson was not in court, Joel Brodsky, the lawyer who has been representing him for weeks, attended the hearing with his partner. Brodsky said that he recruited Carroll, a former police officer and prosecutor in Chicago, to argue this motion and that Carroll would continue to assist Peterson's legal team as the investigation continues.