Illinois Supreme Court upholds Drew Peterson conviction for murder of Kathleen Savio

Today the Illinois Supreme Court handed down their opinion on Drew Peterson’s appeal  of his 2012 murder conviction.

The court found his allegations of errors of evidence admitted to trial, ineffective counsel, conflicts of interest, and breeches of clergy privilege to be without legal merit.

States Attorney James Glasgow, himself a target of an attempt at murder-for-hire on the part Peterson, released this statement in response to the court’s decision:

Today’s ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously affirming the conviction of Drew Peterson for the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, is the ultimate vindication of my decision to pursue a prosecution that had been criticized initially by many legal professionals and those in the media.
Today’s ruling completely affirms my lawful use of relevant and probative hearsay statements against Drew Peterson at his murder trial. Peterson thought the statements and threats he made had died with Kathleen Savio and had vanished with his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson. He never anticipated that I would utilize the constitutionally sound concept of forfeiture by wrongdoing to allow Kathleen to testify from the grave against her murderer, and enable Stacy to bolster her testimony. This legal principle allows prosecutors to use relevant and probative hearsay statements at trial against defendants who kill witnesses to keep them from testifying.
The Illinois Supreme Court today not only affirmed the use of this principle as applied in the Peterson case, but it identified additional avenues that had already been laid out by the U.S. Supreme Court for prosecutors to use in future cases.
Today’s ruling is a victory for the families of Kathleen Savio and Stacy Peterson against a notorious murderer who always felt he could act outside and above the law. It also is a watershed moment for police and prosecutors battling criminals who would twist the law to serve their nefarious purposes by killing the very witnesses who would help bring them to justice.

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Appellate court overturns hearsay decision. Drew Peterson finally going to trial


The appellate court has finally reconsidered the eight barred hearsay statements on their merits and have decided to reverse the earlier appellate decision to bar them. They have decided that the statements are reliable and admissable at trial which can now go forward. We could be seeing a trial as early as June!

However, this doesn’t mean that the earlier barred evidence will necessarily be heard at trial. In the decision Justice William Holdridge pointed out that,

…We do not mean to suggest, however, that the circuit court is required to admit those eight statements during the trial. Rather, we merely hold that the statements are admissible under Rule of Evidence 804(b)(5) and should be admitted under that rule unless the circuit court finds they are otherwise inadmissible.

In other words, the statements have been ruled admissible under the long-established common laws of forfeiture by wrongdoing, which is what James Glasgow had argued for back in February 2011, but they won’t all necessarily make it into the trial.

Although this decision is a huge win for the state, it did not come without some chastisement over the controversial hearsay statute (which has been referred to as Drew’s Law) that Glasgow first hung his case on but then ultimately begged the court to toss aside:

…one would expect the State either to enforce the statute as written or act to repeal the statute, not urge the courts to ignore it.

These are the hearsay statements that have been deemed reliable (based on our research. The original decision was sealed, but leaked). The statements in red are the ones that were originally barred but are now admissible.

1. Kathleen Savio’s letter to then-Will County Assistant State’s Attorney Elizabeth Fragale complaining of Drew Peterson’s abuse, including an alleged July 2002 attack when he put a knife to her throat.

2. Kristin Anderson’s testimony that Savio told of her fears that Peterson would kill her while her family briefly rented Savio’s basement in 2003.

3. A fellow student at Joliet Junior College, Mary Park’s testimony that she saw red marks on Kathleen’s neck that Savio attributed to Peterson in 2003.

4. Savio’s co-worker, Issam Karam’s testimony that Savio told him Peterson came into her home and held a knife to her throat.

5. Kathleen’s sister, Susan Savio’s testimony about her sister’s fears that Peterson would kill her.

6. Kathleen’s sister, Anna Doman’s testimony that shortly before she died, Savio asked Doman to care for her children if she died, saying Peterson wanted to kill her.

7. Savio’s handwritten statement attached to a Bolingbrook police report on the July 2002 incident.

8. Six audio excerpts from a June 13, 2003, taped conversation Savio had with an insurance company over a claim she put in for allegedly stolen jewelry.

9. Savio’s Aug. 6, 2003, statement to the insurance company

10. Savio’s divorce attorney, Harry Smith’s testimony that Stacy contacted him about divorcing Peterson shortly before she vanished.

11. Stacy’s friend, Scott Rossetto’s testimony that she told him Peterson coached her as an alibi witness in Savio’s death.

12. The Rev. Neil Schori’s testimony that Stacy told him Peterson returned home dressed completely in black and carrying a bag of women’s clothing in the late morning on the day Savio’s body was found. Stacy also told him Peterson coached her to provide his alibi.

13. Stacy’s Joliet Junior College classmate, Michael Miles’ testimony that Stacy told him before Savio’s 2004 death that Peterson wanted to kill his ex-wife but that Stacy talked him out of it.

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Drew Peterson hearsay decision: Prosecution filed appeal too late

Pastor Neil Schori will testify that Stacy Peterson told him a ninja-attired Drew returned to the house the night that Kathleen Savio died and put women's clothing in the washer.

A state appellate court has decided not to overturn Judge White’s decision to bar some hearsay evidence against accused wife murderer, Drew Peterson. According to the opinion, the 30-day deadline for filing the appeals was missed.

The court found the following six statements admissible:

  1. portions of a letter that Kathleen wrote to the Will County State’s Attorney’s office which described a confrontation that Kathleen allegedly had with the defendant on July 5, 2002, while the divorce proceedings were pending;
  2. a redacted version of a handwritten statement that Kathleen gave to the Bolingbrook police describing the alleged July 5, 2002, incident;
  3. a statement that Kathleen allegedly made to her sister, Anna Doman;
  4. a statement that Kathleen allegedly made in late 2003 to Mary Sue Parks, who attended nursing classes with Kathleen at Joliet Junior College;
  5. another statement that Kathleen allegedly made to Parks; and
  6. a statement that Stacy allegedly made to her pastor, Neil Schori, regarding an encounter that she allegedly had with her husband on the night Kathleen died.

The circuit court ruled that the remaining eight hearsay statements proffered by the State did not meet the statutory standard of reliability and that the interests of justice would not be served by the admission of those statements.

Read and discuss today’s opinion in the comments section.

Hearsay appeal oral arguments
Read more at Fox Chicago

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