(CBS/AP) JOLIET, Ill. - An Illinois judge will once again have to decide Wednesday whether to declare a mistrial in the case against former police officer Drew Peterson. This will be the third time in as many weeks the judge is considering whether to cut the murder trial short.
Peterson, 58, is accused in the 2004 killing of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. He was charged after his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, disappeared in 2007.
Prosecutor Kathleen Patton apologized to Judge Edward Burmila Tuesday after she broached the subject of whether Savio had sought an order of protection against Peterson. Patton had been told not to mention the subject in front of jurors.
"There was one thing I told you not to go into and that's exactly what you did," Burmila told her.
Explaining her mistake, Patton told Burmila that the question about the protection order was on a prepared list of questions and that she read it inadvertently.
"I'm sorry," Patton said. "It's my fault. I can't believe I did it."
Savio was found dead in her bathroom at her suburban home in 2004. Investigators collected no physical evidence, and authorities initially ruled that Savio had accidentally drowned. After Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy, vanished three years later, Savio's body was re-examined and her death was reclassified as a homicide.
The judge made several rulings in prosecutors' favor in recent days, granting them permission to present hearsay evidence, or statements not based on the direct knowledge of a witness, that are central to their case. Hearsay is usually not admissible in court, but Illinois passed a law in the wake of the Peterson case that allows it in certain circumstances.
On Tuesday, former police officer Teresa Kernc told jurors about interviewing Savio in 2002 after Peterson allegedly broke into Savio's home in a SWAT uniform and repeatedly pushed her to the ground.
At one point, Savio allegedly told Peterson, "Go ahead and do what you came to do: Kill me," Kernc testified.
"He said, 'Where do you want it?' And she said, 'In the head.'" Kernc testified. Kernc said Savio told her that Peterson then allegedly told Savio to turn her head, which she did.
"And then he said, 'I can't kill you,'" Kernc told jurors.
Shortly after Kernc finished telling that story, Patton turned and asked, "Did she tell you she wanted to get an order of protection?"
The defense objected to Patton's question, and the judge asked jurors to leave the room.
Defense attorney Joel Brodsky cited other times prosecutors broached prohibited subjects, including when Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow referred to an accusation that Peterson once tried to hire a hit man just 10 minutes into his opening statement.
"It is an avalanche of prejudicial, illegal evidence that is polluting this jury," Brodsky said. "To have this many ... errors, how can the defendant get a fair trial?"
Peterson is a suspect in the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy, who is presumed dead but whose body has never been found. He has never been charged in that case.