Drew Peterson is found guilty and will likely appeal

Drew Peterson, a former Chicago-area police sergeant was found guilty of the murder of his third wife Kathleen Savio, who was found dead in her home on March 1, 2004, just weeks before their divorce settlement was to be finalized.

He is now waiting to be sentenced (sometime in November) and could serve up to a maximum of 60-years in jail. The defense will likely file a notice of appeal at the Will County Circuit Court’s Office.

In convicting Drew Peterson, the prosecutors based their arguments largely on circumstantial evidence and hearsay testimony. Hearsay testimony is an out-of-court statement, by a person other than the person testifying at trial, that is being offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. In other words, someone is testifying about what they heard someone else say and the person who actually made the statement is not in court to testify. Additionally, the statement is being offered for its truth. More than 30 witnesses testified against Peterson at trial. After 14 hours of deliberation, the jury found Peterson guilty of first-degree murder.

Though a guilty verdict was reached, it is likely this case will continue to be disputed in an appellate court. The Peterson trial brought much dispute to the type of testimony (hearsay testimony) used to reach a guilty verdict. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that hearsay violates a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to confront a witness testifying against him, such as statements made by Stacy Peterson (Peterson’s fourth wife who remains missing) about Peterson’s involvement in Savio’s death to other individuals. Generally, such statements would not be allowed in a trial.

However, Illinois passed a special law in 2008, the ‘Drew’s law’, that allows such hearsay evidence in rare instances when prosecutors believe a person was killed to prevent his or her testimony. The central issue to be appealed in the Peterson case is the constitutional validity of the Illinois hearsay exception allowing for such testimony. Depending upon the Illinois Appellate Court decision, the hearsay exception can be appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court and ultimately the United States Supreme Court.

Other grounds for appeal that Peterson may assert include prosecutorial misconduct, witnesses committing perjury, improper jury instructions, improper rulings by the trial judge, and an ineffective assistance of defense counsel.

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