Is this trial a joke?

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The Shark
  • "The Shark"
Joseph "The Shark" Lopez is a lawyer on Drew Peterson's defense team. Having volunteered for the duty, he's also blogging about the trial for the Sun-Times, which carries his "Swimming With the Shark" blog posts in its pages.

"He approached us," Sun-Times editor in chief Jim Kirk tells me. "Don't know what kind of permission he received from Peterson, but I'm assuming he got it. We debated internally whether there were reasons not to run a blog from him, and at the end of the day we couldn't come up with one. Obviously we read it carefully and would reconsider if we thought he were about to cross any lines."

I couldn't come up with a reason either, although I have a feeling I just wasn't thinking about it hard enough. The Sun-Times is boasting that Lopez "offers his take on the trial’s daily proceedings and insight into the trial process," but I haven't noticed his take and insight amounting yet to a hill of beans.

For instance, Lopez's Monday post (published in Tuesday's Sun-Times) began:

We expect the state to be calling many witnesses this week. Civilians and police. The media has suggested Robert Deel and Patrick Collins, two Illinois state police investigators who initially investigated the death scene, will be the next witnesses.

It is up to the state as to whom they want to call and in what order. It is hard to predict what the state's witnesses are going to say in court. If the state police are called, they will explain to the jury what they observed.

Not exactly inside baseball.

Last Friday Lopez cross-examined prosecution witness Anna Doman, the sister of Kathleen Savio, the ex-wife Peterson allegedly murdered. The blog entry Lopez posted that afternoon about Doman's testimony focused on the points he scored during his cross-examination and skated over Doman's testimony for the state. ("She said that Drew told her he was going to kill her, she was not going to make it to the divorce settlement, she would not get his pension or his children. . . . She made me promise over and over that I would take care of her boys . . ." Lopez quoted none of this.)

We shouldn't expect balance from a defense attorney. But if Lopez were living up to his billing, he'd have told us something interesting about his encounter with Doman. Instead, he didn't even say he was the one who cross-examined her.

This isn't the first time Lopez has blogged one of his own criminal trials. Five years ago, while representing Frank Calabrese Sr. in the "Family Secrets" trial, he wrote about it for a blog called Chicago Syndicate until the judge told him to knock it off. Calabrese was convicted of seven murders and sentenced to life in prison, which apparently didn't cause Peterson to worry about Lopez spreading himself a little thin. But then, Peterson's got other lawyers.

Besides, Peterson seems to find a lot of things funny that others don't. Being able to boast that when his attorney isn't working his murder trial he's covering it for the local paper might be one of those things. The joke isn't exactly on the Sun-Times—it's more on the dignity of the legal process. Or maybe it is on the Sun-Times.

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