Drew Peterson: Hearing the hearsay?February 4, 2011 - 5:49 PM | by: Ruth Ravve
Should “hearsay” evidence be allowed in Drew Peterson’s murder trial? That’s the potentially groundbreaking battle attorneys will be fighting, once again, in an Illinois court later this month. This time it will be in an Ottawa, Illinois appeals court. Last year a judge shot down the use of most hearsay evidence by prosecutors in a pre-trial hearing.
The 56-year old former Bolingbrook, Illinois cop is considered a suspect in the 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, although her body has never been found. Police are also re-investigating the death of Peterson’s third wife, Kathleen Savio, who was found dead in her bathtub. It was determined, at that time, that she drowned, even though the bathtub was empty. Her death has since been ruled a homicide.
Prosecutors want to be able to include at trial statements Stacy allegedly made to family and friends before her disappearance. The court considers comments presented by a second party to be hearsay. ”What the State’s Attorney is trying to do is get a ruling that allows unreliable hearsay evidence in a murder trial. A judge already ruled much of it is unreliable. Its not even evidence. Its gossip parading as evidence. Its a travesty. I don’t see that the appellate court will allow this” says Peterson defense attorney Joel Brodsky.
A law passed in 2009 allows hearsay evidence in a murder trial if it can be proven the victim was killed in order to prevent that person’s testimony.
The oral arguments over hearsay are expected to be brief. The court’s allowing each side 15 minutes to make their case, then the State gets the final word, with a 5 minute rebuttal at the end. Brodsky says the outcome could have far reaching impact. ”What’s at stake here is whether or not the people lose their right to require the government to use only reliable evidence in court before it can take away a citizen’s freedom and liberty”.
The court also decided to allow a Chicago TV news camera to be in the courtroom to cover the arguments, which is unprecedented in Illinois, and may be due to the fact that its a subject that has such widespread interest.
It could take several months before a decision is made on the appeal.