Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Peterson convicted by hearsay exception created for his trial

Last week, Drew Peterson was convicted of 1st degree murder in the death of his third wife Kathleen Savio.  The conviction was based primarily on the hearsay statements of his missing fourth wife. It was the first case in Illinois history to permit the use of hearsay evidence, based on a 2008 state law specifically adopted for Peterson’s case.

Some jurors acknowledged that comments by Mr. Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, made before her 2007 disappearance, played the decisive role in convincing them to convict Mr. Peterson, reported the New York Times. However, convicting on hearsay was troubling for at least one juror

According to the Times, the prosecution’s strategy grew largely from a lack of physical evidence collected in the case after investigators initially deemed Savio’s death an accident. Prosecutors claimed the hearsay would allow Ms. Savio and Stacy Peterson — who is presumed dead — “to speak from their graves” through family and friends

One juror Ron Supalo said he had difficulty coming to terms with convicting someone based on what others claimed someone else said. “I’m uncomfortable with the Illinois law that allowed hearsay,” Supalo, who briefly studied law, told the Times. “They made the law just for Drew Peterson — applied it to him retroactively. If there was no hearsay in his case — Drew Peterson goes free.”

Defense lawyers have said the presentation of hearsay undercut Mr. Peterson’s constitutional rights because he couldn’t directly confront his accusers — namely, his third and fourth wives.

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