Kathleen Savio’s family can finally find some peace knowing the murderer of Savio has finally been tried and justice has been served. However, the question that remains is whether or not the conviction will withstand an appeal?
In 2004, authorities believed that Drew Peterson’s 3rd wife, Kathleen Savio, died as a result of drowning. The state only became suspicious about Savio’s death in 2007, after Peterson’s 4th wife, Stacy Peterson, went missing. In May 2009, Drew Peterson was charged with the first-degree murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. After 5 weeks of trial, the jury unanimously convicted Drew Peterson of first-degree murder for the death of Savio.
Drew Peterson’s conviction heavily rested on the hearsay testimony of Reverend Neil Schori, Stacy Peterson’s pastor, and Harry Smith, Kathleen Savio’s former divorce lawyer. Schori testified that Stacy told him that Drew told her he had killed Savio. Smith testified that Stacy planned to divorce Drew Peterson and wanted to know if “the fact that he killed Kathy could be used against him” as leverage.
In 2008, a year before Peterson was arrested, Illinois passed “Drew’s law”, which allows hearsay evidence to be admissible if the defendant killed the witness to prevent the witnesses testimony. From what I understand, “Drew’s Law” was simply enacted to admit hearsay evidence that would otherwise be inadmissible: the testimonies of the pastor and the divorce lawyer.
Hearsay is usually inadmissible in court unless it falls within one of the hearsay exceptions or exemptions. Hearsay is defined as an out of court statement that is offered for the truth of the matter asserted. In the case at bar, the evidence presented by Stacy’s pastor and divorce attorney was hearsay, mainly offered to prove that Drew Petersen murdered Savio. What troubles me with this admissible hearsay is that jurors were unable to examine Stacy’s credibility.
1) Stacy’s credibility
Stacy, Drew Peterson’s Fourth wife, is still missing and the court admitted statements that she had made to two people. It would be very difficult for Peterson to prove his innocence when he cannot call Stacy to the stand and cross-examine her about her accusations. This is a right guaranteed to him by the confrontation clause of the 6th amendment. It guarantees criminal defendants the right to confront and cross-examine all witnesses testifying against them. If she doesn’t testify in court, how can a jury know whether to believe her accusations? They can’t.
Proof beyond a reasonable doubt
No matter how strongly our gut feeling tells us that Drew Peterson is guilty, guilt must still be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. One jury member stated that they based their decision solely on the admissible hearsay evidence. In my opinion, hearsay alone presents reasonable doubt, mostly because the jurors can easily attribute the pastors and divorce attorney’s testimonies to alternative causes, such as Stacy’s personal dislike for Drew Peterson.
Do you think this case will go to the court of appeals? Is “Drew’s Law” constitutional? Do you think there was enough evidence to show that Drew Peterson killed Savio beyond a reasonable doubt?
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