Student heads jury in Peterson trial
In his striped V-neck shirt and jeans, Eduardo Saldana, a 22-year-old junior radio major, has the appearance of a typical college kid. He goes to school, plays video games, watches sports and runs a blog. Saldana is also from Bolingbrook, Ill., a fact that led him to become part of a trial that drew
Saldana was the jury foreman, or head juror, for the Drew Peterson trial. Peterson was recently found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, whose case was reopened after his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, disappeared in October 2007.
The trial lasted longer than expected, so Saldana missed the first week of shool.
Saldana sat down with The Chronicle to talk about his experience, the verdict and being a student on the jury of such a highly publicized trial.
The Chronicle: How much did you know about the case before you were selected as a jury member?
Eduardo Saldana: Well, since Drew Peterson and I live in Bolingbrook, I kind of knew everything once it started to happen. But once you are in the case, you can’t really use that. You have to go in there and erase all that from your mind and just go through the process.
What made you want to be the jury foreman?
Prior to deliberations, I told one of my jurors that I would do it [and] that I want[ed] to do it. Once deliberations began, we had to select our foreman, and I just told them that I would volunteer. I thought that I would have to read the verdict and that was one of the reasons why [I wanted to do it], but the judge had to read the verdict. It doesn’t really matter. I enjoyed it.
Was it difficult to not talk about the case?
In the jury room, yes. It’s one of those things that we always wanted to talk about, but we couldn’t because the judge ordered us not to. So we had to read books, play games [and] just entertain ourselves. It was boring because we couldn’t talk about it.
What about discussing it with family and friends?
I couldn’t talk to my parents about the case. They knew I was at the case, [but they didn’t know] what was going on. I couldn’t tell them what I heard or anything like that. The rest of my family members don’t know that I was a juror.
What was it like to make such a big decision as a college student?
Stressful. During the nights you are thinking about what are you going to do, especially during deliberations. You have no idea what you want to say or what verdict you are going choose. My energy just went down because I had to wake up [early] in the morning. Things became difficult for me during
How did you push past all that to have a clear head for court?
I just tried to distract my mind with something else, like read[ing] a book. But during deliberations, that is all I had on my mind. I couldn’t take it out of my head at all. I tried to read a book, but I couldn’t concentrate on the book because I [was] concentrating on the case.
What was the decision day like?
We got to the courthouse, and right away we started talking about it. We were still waiting on one juror to choose what he wanted to do. At first he was “not guilty,” but afterwards he [changed his mind]. He had a few questions about the hearsay [evidence], and we answered all his questions. Some people were kind of anxious, but I told him that he had to take his time on this. It is a big decision. It is not an easy one. Once he did that, we all came to an agreement and we gave the judge our verdict. But when we were getting called into the courtroom, we were all extremely nervous. My heart was pounding almost out of
What was it like being in the same room as Drew Peterson?
When we were first told that we would be serving as jurors during the selection process, I joked around with my parents, telling them, “Oh, watch it be the Drew Peterson case.” Then I got into the courtroom. I didn’t see him at first, but I sat down and the judge told us it was the State of Illinois against Drew Peterson, and I looked and he was there. For some reason, I knew that I would somehow be selected. Just seeing him didn’t make [me]nervous. He is a person just like us. He is just in court. I didn’t really [view him in any particular way] because as a juror you can’t do that.
What did you take away from this experience?
You have to be able to keep secrets because certain people, like my parents, were always trying to talk to me about the case, but I can’t tell them. You have to concentrate hard on what the witnesses are saying.