Drew Peterson Murder Case Hearsay Hits Appellate Court
The Third District Appellate Court in Ottawa will hear arguments today about what hearsay evidence — if any — makes it into Drew Peterson's murder trial.
Drew Peterson shot off his mouth for the year and a half between his fourth wife vanishing and the state police locking him up for allegedly murdering the wife before her, ripping both the dead woman and the one that disappeared.
Today, the Third District Appellate Court in Ottawa will decide whether the incriminating remarks supposedly made by Peterson's last two wives can be used against him if his murder trial ever makes it in front of a jury.
The appellate court arguments scheduled for this afternoon, which can be seen live here, fall exactly one year after a landmark, month-long hearing to decide that very issue was wrapping up in Will County court.
During those proceedings at the Joliet courthouse, more than 70 witnesses took the stand as prosecutors tried to convince Judge Stephen White to allow 15 hearsay statements to be used against Peterson at trial.
White tossed two statements in the midst of the hearing, and after its conclusion axed another 10. Despite this setback prosecutors were poised to take the case to trial, but on the eve of jury selection, backed off to appeal White's decision on the hearsay statements.
In crafting the appeal, prosecutors pointed to a decision to uphold a DuPage County death penalty conviction in which a judge allowed hearsay statements during trial.
Peterson has been locked up in the Will County jail since May 2009 on charges he murdered third wife Kathleen Savio, who was found drowned in a dry bathtub in March 2004.
Savio and Peterson were embroiled in an acrimonious divorce at the time of her death, and she predicted that Peterson would kill her in a letter to Assistant State's Attorney Elizabeth Fragale. Still, the state police insisted Savio was the victim of a freak bathtub accident and effectively closed the file on her case within months of her death.
The state police were forced to open that file back up when the teenage girl Peterson left Savio for and eventually made his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, mysteriously vanished in October 2007.
Stacy remains missing. The state police have announced that they suspect Peterson may have killed her too but have yet to do anything as bold as arrest him for it.
While prosecutors want to use incriminating statements supposedly made by both Savio and Stacy to convict Peterson, one of the accused wife-killer's lawyers, Joseph "Shark" Lopez, said it does not matter whether they get in or not, as the state has no case against his client.
"First of all, there is no murder," said Lopez, whose wife, attorney Lisa Lopez, will be making her debut today as part of the Peterson defense team.
Joseph Lopez was also suspicious that so many of the hearsay witnesses testified to both Savio and Stacy predicting that Peterson would kill them and make their death or disappearance appear to be an accident.
"It's very convenient," he said. "It's more than convenient — it's trumped up."
Joseph Lopez went on to put the blame for the domestic violence during Savio's breakup with Peterson squarely on her.
"The only allegation is, she's beating people up," he said.
Savio was charged with battery in connection with incidents involving both Peterson and Stacy. She was acquitted of the charges and the cases were expunged.
Lopez still put the onus for the turmoil on Savio, saying, "She's a wild broad. She's a bruiser, a barroom brawler. She could kick Drew's ass."
Regardless of who ends up triumphing after the appellate court hands down its decision in the coming months, Joseph Lopez expected the loser to appeal to the state supreme court. Not that the defense necessarily needs to, he said.
"There is no case," he said. "Whether they have (the statements) or they don't have it."