Hearsay law upheld in Peterson murder case
October 2, 2009 4:32 PM
A Will County judge today upheld the state’s new hearsay law, which prosecutors plan to use in their murder trial against Drew Peterson.
Under the law, which took affect in December, prosecutors plans to submit as evidence letters and statements by Peterson’s third wife, Kathleen Savio, to friends and family before she was killed in 2004.
Peterson’s attorneys have argued that the so-called “Drew’s law” violates a defendant’s 6th Amendment right to cross-examine witnesses; goes against state and federal constitutional provisions against retroactively applied laws; and “erodes the presumption of innocence” by asking a judge before the trial even starts to find that Peterson murdered Savio to silence her.
But Judge Stephen White sided with prosecutors and allowed the law to stand.
Peterson’s attorneys said they would notify prosecutors whether they intend to introduce their own hearsay evidence by Oct. 29, their client’s next court date.
Peterson, in custody at the Will County Jail in Joliet, is also considered a suspect in the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson.
Eearlier, Peterson lost his bid to move his murder trial outside of Will County.
Peterson’s attorney, Joel Brodsky, has argued that widespread publicity would make it difficult for the former Bolingbrook police sergeant to get a fair trial in Will County.
The motion cited stories about Peterson that ran in the Chicago Tribune, CNN, Huffington Post and local television stations.
Some of the stories detailed the order of protection Savio took out against Peterson and the letters she mailed out before her death. The motion argued that they exposed jurors to “highly significant information which may not be admissible at trial.”
Peterson’s attorneys also objected to a 2008 press release from the Will County state’s attorney’s office that announced that results of an autopsy on Savio’s exhumed remains concluding her death was a homicide.
The complete autopsy was not released, only the manner of death, which his attorneys said “prejudiced the jury pool in regards to the most contested fact of the entire case — namely the manner of death.”
— Steven D. Schmadeke
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