M. Spencer Green / AP
Joel Brodsky, attorney for former Bolingbrook police officer Drew Peterson, wipes his brow before entering court for jury instructions on Wednesday in Joliet, Ill.
A day after the prosecution and defense presented closing arguments, the jury in the first-degree murder trial of Drew Peterson began deliberations Wednesday.
Peterson, a former Bolingbrook, Ill., police sergeant, is charged in the 2004 drowning death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. The prosecution alleges that Peterson, 58, murdered Savio and staged her death to look like an accident. The defense on Tuesday argued that no one asked Peterson if he killed his wife because everyone could see it was an accident, NBCChicago.com reported.
After hearing five weeks of evidence, the jury began deliberations at 10:37 a.m. ET Wednesday. Judge Edward Burmila read 15 minutes of instructions to the jurors, saying that they should start with the presumption that Peterson is innocent and only convict him if they find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, The Associated Press reported.
"The defendant is not required to prove his innocence," Burmila told jurors.
The jurors made several requests in the first few hours, NBCChicago.com reported. They requested Peterson’s phone records from the weekend Savio died and autopsy photos of Savio’s body. They also wanted a letter written by Savio that described her fear that Peterson would kill her, but the judge only allowed them access to a heavily-redacted version. The jurors’ request for a transcript of the testimony from Rev. Neil Schori and attorney Harry Smith was denied by the judge, and instead the transcript was read back to them by a court reporter.
The seven-man, five-woman jury is faced with considering a few propositions, according to NBCChicago.com: That the defendant performed the acts that caused the death of Savio, and that when the defendant did so, he intended to kill or do great bodily harm to Savio. Or they must consider whether Peterson knew that his acts created a strong probability of death or great bodily harm to Savio.
If any one of these propositions are found to be not proven beyond reasonable doubt, the judge said the jury should find Peterson not guilty.
Peterson could spend up to 60 years in prison, if convicted.
"He's emotionally and mentally prepared for whatever happens," his lead attorney, Joel Brodsy, told reporters after closing arguments Tuesday.
The Associated Press, as well as NBCChicago.com’s BJ Lutz, Glenn Marshall and Lisa Balde contributed to this report.
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