Jury selection is set to begin Thursday in the trial of Drew Peterson for the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio.
Prosecutors say he killed Savio in 2004 and staged the scene so it looked like she drowned on accident. A second round of autopsies, conducted after Peterson's fourth wife Stacy vanished, found that Savio was murdered.
FOX Chicago News spoke to legal experts about what prosecutors and defense attorneys need to do to win the case.
Experts say the prosecution needs to focus on three key points: establish a motive (and show Peterson is the only one who benefited from Savio's murder); convince the jury that hearsay evidence is reliable; and convince jurors that State Police blundered the original investigation (so the first autopsy can be regarded as flawed).
"It's not just bones that are dug up however many years later and somebody looks at them and says gee this is a homicide," said Chicago Kent College of Law Professor Richard Kling. "You look at the findings on the bones, but you also look at the evidence that existed at the time which apparently wasn't looked at as thoroughly as it should have been."
Most of the hearsay evidence will not be allowed to be presented at trial, so jurors won't hear much about the disappearance of Stacy Peterson. However, they will hear some statement from her pastor, who testified during the grand jury that Stacy Peterson told him she'd lied to provide Drew Peterson with an alibi for Savio's death.
For Peterson's defense team, this will be a chance to turn all the speculation, innuendo and supposition about his alleged involvement in Savio's death upside down.
Peterson has always maintained he had nothing to do with Savio's death, and that he did not stand to get rich if Savio died before their divorce was finalized.
For the defense, finding the right jurors will be critical.
Overall, the defense team needs to focus on three key points: the lack of evidence (DNA or fingerprints) connecting Peterson to Savio's murder; highlight the conflicting autopsies (to force them to question whether it was murder or an accident); and point out that the law requires them to find Peterson guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Defense attorneys say there's plenty of reasons for jurors to doubt the case.