(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Drew Peterson, center, leaves the Will County Courthouse after pleading not guilty of murdering his third wife Kathleen Savio.
JOLIET, Ill. (CBS/AP) - It was supposed to be a routine hearing today for Drew Peterson, the former police officer charged with killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio. But very little has been routine in this case. After Peterson pled not guilty, the prosecution requested to remove the judge from the case on "the grounds of prejudice against the state."
In November, Judge Richard Schoenstedt dismissed felony gun charges against Peterson after Will County prosecutors refused to give defense attorneys internal documents on communications between Illinois State Police and the state's attorney's office. Those documents had led to Peterson's arrest on the gun charges.
Peterson's attorney, Joel Brodskey, is challenging the motion to remove Judge Schoenstedt, calling it "nothing but gamesmanship."
"It shows the state does not want to try this case on the merits," he said.
Will County Chief Judge Gerald Kinney will have a hearing on the issue Thursday.
The surprise move prevented Brodskey from requesting a reduction in the $20 million bail bond previously set for Peterson.
"Drew has proven he is not a flight risk or danger to the community. Bonds are not supposed to be punitive, but to ensure someone's presence in court," Brodsky said on NBC's "Today."
Brodsky pointed out in an interview Monday with The Associated Press that, in the past two years, Peterson has been to such places as Mexico, California and Florida without ever trying to flee.
During the arraignment, Peterson stood silently wearing a blue jail jumpsuit and shackles.
Peterson has been jailed since May 7 on first-degree murder charges in the 2004 death of Kathleen Savio, who was found in a dry bathtub with a gash on the back of her head. Her drowning originally was ruled an accident. But after Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy, disappeared in 2007, Savio's body was exhumed, and authorities reclassified her death as a homicide after an autopsy.
Peterson, 55, has denied involvement in Savio's death or Stacy Peterson's disappearance.
Savio's family insisted they wanted Peterson to stay in jail and not be released on a reduced bond. Her father, Henry Savio, said his one wish is "to have this done."
Peterson's 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. Brodsky said he hasn't decided whether he will ask for a jury or bench trial but said he was "leaning strongly" to seeking a jury from another county. He also said he hasn't decided whether Peterson would testify in his own defense.
Peterson, of suburban Bolingbrook, has never shied from the spotlight and is known as a jokester. As he was led to his first court appearance this month, he referred to his prison-issued jumpsuit as a "spiffy outfit" and his handcuffs as "bling."
Attorneys say that 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."
Brodsky has said joking around is how Peterson deals with stress.
His personality is "unique, but he's honest," the lawyer said Monday.
"He doesn't try to act or change the way he is in order to come across and I think that will resonate with the jury to show his honesty if, in fact, he does choose to testify," Brodsky said on ABC's "Good Morning America."