JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — Among the many questions that arose during Drew Peterson’s murder trial, one of the least weighty but most perplexing was — what on earth were jurors trying to say by meticulously coordinating their clothes each day?
They wore all yellow, then all green, blue and black. They wore alternating red, white and blue once in a hint of the American flag. The display that caused the biggest stir was when all 16 wore team jerseys — mostly supporting the Chicago Bears and White Sox, although there was one for the Green Bay Packers.
Some of the 12 jurors and four alternates cleared up the mystery Friday, a day after the jury convicted the 58-year-old former Illinois police officer of first-degree murder in the 2004 death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio: They say they weren’t trying to say anything.
“It was a way to pass the time,” explained Patricia Timke, an alternate juror, noting the group couldn’t talk about evidence during the five weeks of testimony. “We had long discussions on colors to wear each day. It took time to work out.”
“There was no message,” agreed juror Teresa Mathews, who spoke at a news conference with several jurors later in the day.
Mathews noted lawyers’ constant objections in the complex case, which forced jurors to get up and leave the courtroom more than a dozen times a day while the attorneys argued over the admissibility of evidence.
“We probably spent more time in the jury room than the courtroom,” the 49-year-old said.
Asked why they all agreed to the sartorial stunts, jury foreman Eduardo Saldana, 22, answered flatly, “We were bored.”
The practice, which most legal experts said they had never seen or heard of before, raised many eyebrows and drew criticism from some who said it conveyed a lack of seriousness — especially during a murder trial.
Timke, 68, insisted such criticism was unfair.
“We took everything extremely seriously,” she said.
Jurors sat through often gruesome evidence, included grisly photos of Savio, who was found dead in her bathtub in 2004. Her death was initially ruled an accident, and Peterson was charged only charged after his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, disappeared in 2007. He now faces a prison sentence of up to 60 years.
Jurors said they were not oblivious to courtroom decorum, either. They noted they asked presiding Judge Edward Burmila if he would object to them wearing sports jersey the one day.
“We asked permission because we didn’t want to disrespect the court and he said fine — and he laughed,” Timke said.
The judge also made a joke once they filed in with jerseys on.
Burmila — a White Sox fan — cheerfully noted an absence of jerseys supporting the team’s cross-town rivals, the Cubs. Jurors were obviously intelligent, he told the courtroom, because “nobody has any Cubs clothes on.”
Defense attorney Steve Greenberg even worked the jerseys into his questioning of a witness, Savio’s friend Mary Pontarelli. Glancing at the jury box, Greenberg asked what jersey she’d prefer.
“Sox,” she responded without missing a beat.
“Instant credibility!” Greenberg boomed, thrusting his finger into the air.
The judge struck the attorney’s exclamation from the record, though he quipped he wouldn’t strike the witness’s response.
Follow Michael Tarm at http://www.twitter.com/mtarm
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