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Friday, September 21, 2012

Drew Peterson Guilty: A Dark Day for Justice -- Sept. 7, 2012

Former Bolingbrook Police Sergeant Drew Peterson was convicted of murdering his third wife, Kathleen Savio. Her death in 2004 was originally determined to be an accident but three years later when Peterson's fourth wife went missing, police reinvestigated the case. Quizzically, a new forensic team found that Savio was murdered after examining her exhumed body. Drew Peterson was charged with the murder in 2009 and finally brought to trial last month. After a 5 week trial and nearly 14 hours of deliberations, a jury found him guilty yesterday. The decision was based on hearsay evidence which is not allowed in U.S. criminal trials due to American's constitutional right to confront witnesses against them. The court made the extraordinary exception in the Peterson case based upon a new law passed by the Illinois legislature and named "Drew's Law". The pressure to convict Peterson was enormous and largely driven not only by the odd disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy, but his own brash and flamboyant behavior in the mass media. However, despite how suspicious and contemptible a person may be, the justice system should not be undermined. While people celebrated his conviction outside the court house, defense attorney Joel Brodsky stated "This is a dark day for justice." I agree.

The Will County Court House where Peterson was tried is only several miles from Stateville. It is an odd top heavy concrete building in downtown Joliet. Having lived in the far southwest suburbs of Chicago, I was familiar with the television footage of the court house as well as the town of Bolingbrook, although to a much lesser degree. Bolingbrook is to the northwest of where I lived and I only happened to pass through a few times before my arrest. It is mainly a middle class town with older homes. The closeness of events in the Peterson trial made them of greater interest to me. I have paid attention to developments in the case through television, newsprint, and local radio news.

The Chicago metropolitan area has been bombarded with news coverage and this has even went nationwide. The Drew Peterson case has been the subject of various prime time television programs and even a Lifetime movie. Before his arrest, Peterson was interviewed by several cable and network TV programs including "48 Hours," and "The Larry King Show." I never saw the movie which was on a cable station Stateville does not have, but I did see a few of his interviews. During the interviews, I thought he came across well, however, he seemed to have a cocky and at times bizarre attitude with local media which followed him around after his 4th wife went missing. He dared prosecutors to charge him with murder and occasionally took news media cameras to film them. He also goofed around with local radio talk show hosts and suggested a "Get a Date with Drew" show. As a police sergeant, I expected a little self confidence and swagger. It was impressive to see a man who did not cower in the face of media glare or the power of the state. Some of his antics were a little obnoxious, but I did not share the growing public outrage. The public seemed to want him to lament and prostrate himself. They also convicted him as not only a haughty cop but a serial wife killer, and they want him prosecuted with or without any evidence of his guilt. 

Drew Peterson probably did himself a disservice to take on the public limelight. He did not have a personality that was well received and he only added to media attention. The odd coincidence of his 3d wife dying by accident and then a 4th wife at large was too suspicious for many people to accept. However, in high profile cases, there is a greater need to be proactive and defend oneself in the public. Suspects often can be convicted in the media well before they ever go to trial. A lot of innuendo and rumor while not admissible in a court of law shape perspective jurors opinions. Public opinion can also pressure the state's attorney's office to file charges or not, such as in the George Zimmerman case. I personally know well how much influence the media can have. 

After seven people were brutally murdered at a Palatine Brown's Chicken and Pasta Restaurant in January 1993, enormous pressure was put on police and prosecutors to solve the crime. The lies of my former roommate and his wife implicating me were incredulous but too good to pass up. I was quickly arrested and charged not with the mass murder, but a murder in Barrington the state's attorney's office thought would be easier to prove. The media then began a vicious campaign of character assassination. I was reported to have committed the Brown's Chicken massacre in Palatine and was the subject of various other nefarious innuendo. When Rose Faraci finally admitted the stories she and her husband told authorities were not true, it did not matter. I was already tried and convicted in the eyes of the public. At this point, there was no way prosecutors were going to admit to have made a mistake and drop the charges against me. Jurors who may have sought to be fair and base their decisions on the evidence, I cannot but believe were to some degree motivated by the pervasive negative, inflammatory and false reporting. I wonder if I or my attorneys had engaged the media instead of being silent, it may have altered public perceptions which once formed are extremely difficult to change.

Drew Peterson was not charged with the murder of his missing wife, Stacy, but his ex-wife Kathleen Savio. However, it was unarguably the reason for his prosecution and similar to how I was prosecuted for being accountable in a Barrington murder rather than the Palatine massacre. It was not until Stacy disappeared that suspicion was even cast upon Drew Peterson in the death of his 3rd wife. In the spring of 2004, Kathleen Savio was found dead in the bathtub of her home. Crime scene investigators and the coroner concluded the death was an accident. There was a gash on the back of her head and it seemed apparent she slipped, hit her head, and died by drowning while unconscious. This is not a rare or odd sequence of events and nearly every day in America people die in similar accidents. No suspicion of foul play was even entertained by police until three years later when Peterson's 4th wife disappeared. Prosecutors had no evidence to prosecute him in the case and thus they exhumed the body of Kathleen Savio. Almost magically, a new forensic team and coroner were able to conclude from a corpse the prior findings were incorrect and she was killed. I can very well understand how a fellow police officer did not come under great scrutiny originally, but I cannot understand how science becomes better from a body that has been in the grave a few years. The conclusion was not based on advanced DNA technology but purely on politics. Contrary to public perception, state's attorneys are not honorable men and women of integrity who seek truth and justice, but unscrupulous elected officials motivated by politics.

The similarities remind me not only of my own case, but that of a man recently released from prison on twisted science. James Kluppelberg was convicted of an arson mass murder in the late 1980's. Originally, the fire and resulting deaths were determined to be an accident by Chicago police. However, when a former friend of Kluppelberg's got into trouble with the law and fabricated a story implicating Kluppelberg years later, the conclusions of crime scene investigators changed. The fire was no longer an accident but an arson and the deaths were now homicides. James Kluppelberg spent over two decades of his life in prison before the former friend recanted his lies and the fire was once again determined to be an accident. With Drew Peterson there is no one facing criminal charges trying to make a deal for himself but there was just as questionable hearsay statements incriminating Peterson.

Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow's prosecution of Drew Peterson was based on the testimony of friends and family of the two women Peterson is suspected of killing. They did not have any direct knowledge of the murder but claim the women told them incriminating information about the defendant. Kathleen Savio's sister testified that Peterson threatened to kill Kathleen and make it look like an accident. Two friends of Savio claimed Kathleen said Peterson threatened her life and abused her. The most damaging hearsay evidence was the testimony of Stacy Peterson's reverend and a divorce attorney who happened to be Kathleen Savio's former divorce attorney. Neal Schori claimed Stacy came to see him about wanting a divorce. She told him she woke up one night to find her husband not in bed. When he came home later she found him dumping women's clothing into the washing machine. He told her to give him an alibi for the night Kathleen died. Divorce attorney Harry Smith was oddly called by the defense and he admitted Stacy was seeking to gain some money out of a divorce settlement, but also that she sought to do it by threatening to tell police Peterson killed Savio. She wondered if she had leverage because she could tell police that Peterson killed Stavio. This conversation allegedly occurred three days before her disappearance.

There is a reason courts do not allow second hand information to be submitted into evidence. It is not reliable. Prisoners will often pass along gossip and rumors about others or events in the penitentiary. I normally will ignore it because it is false or altered. If I really seek the truth, I must go to the source or the actual eye witnesses. Whether one lives amongst convicts in a maximum security penitentiary or not, all people have a tendency to lie, embellish, or retell information inaccurately. It is difficult enough testing the credibility of initial sources of information let alone second or third hand accounts. This is a significant reason the framers of the U.S. Constitution were wise enough to forbid hearsay testimony and mandate witnesses appear in person to be confronted by the accused.

Amendment 6 of the U.S. Constitution and Article 1 Section 8 of the state constitution were violated when hearsay testimony was allowed in Drew Peterson's trial. Will County States Attorney Jim Glasgow dared not to prosecute the Bolingbrook police sergeant despite his arrogance and antics or mounting public pressure initially. He knew there was no evidence to convict him. Two years passed by after Stacy Peterson disappeared without a trace before Drew Peterson was charged with murder. Was it because new evidence was uncovered or the prosecution was steadily building its case by conducting a thorough investigation? No, he was waiting for Illinois legislators to pass a new law. The new law appropriately called "Drew's Law" allowed prosecutors to use hearsay if it originated from a victim the defendant is accused of killing. Apparently, Illinois legislators care little about violating their own constitution or the U.S. Constitution when it comes to getting public enemy #1.

It is outrageous the Illinois legislature would create a law which violates millions of people's constitutional rights to prosecute one man. It is also a gross abuse of power to make the law retroactive. The Constitution clearly states no ex post facto laws shall be passed. Article I Sections 9 and 10 prohibit both Congress and the states from making any law that changes the rules of evidence and receives less or different testimony than was required at the time of the commission of the offense in order to convict an offender. It also prohibits laws that deprive people accused of a crime of some lawful protection to which they have become entitled or alters the situation of a person to his disadvantage. Although an appellate court upheld the use of hearsay evidence in the trial of Drew Peterson to my astonishment, other courts will not. In Illinois, appellate courts are elected and swayed by politics. However, federal judges are appointed. Justices in the U.S. Supreme Court are appointed for life, and although the decision of Chief Justice Roberts was baffling on the issue of Obamacare, I believe there is little chance Peterson's conviction will stand. Drew Peterson may have to spend years in prison as his case is appealed through the system, but eventually a court will have the courage to strike "Drew's Law" and Peterson's conviction.

Many legal experts have already weighed in on the issue and the vast majority agree. The only attorney I have seen interviewed who expressed disagreement was Richard Kling of Chicago-Kent College of Law. He said that exceptions to hearsay have been allowed since the 1970's. However, those rare exceptions deal with a person who is being taken to the emergency room after being stabbed or shot and tells someone before they die who attacked them. I see no correlation between these cases and the case of Drew Peterson. Even the Chicago metropolitan area public which seemed to loathe the defendant were polled on WGN news. A third of them believed the verdict will be overturned.

Yet another major problem exists for prosecutors on appeal. The new law created by the Illinois legislature specifically says hearsay can only be used when the victim is dead. The most damaging evidence to be used against Drew Peterson was hearsay from Stacy Peterson. Stacy's body has never been found, but the judge opined she was killed despite there not being any evidence. Stacy's family is certain she was murdered by her husband. I have listened to interviews of Cassandra Cales and other family members who claim Stacy would never leave her children behind. While it is highly suspicious, I cannot but think of the man who was thought to be killed by John Wayne Gacy. His family also believed he was killed by the serial killer. However, 30 years later, he was found alive living in Florida. Drew Peterson was never convicted of Stacy's murder and he was not even on trial for that yet the judge was willing to assist the prosecution. There was speculation there would be animosity between circuit court Judge Edward Burmila and Will County States Attorney James Glasgow because the former unseated Burmila as states attorney in 1992. However, while they may not like each other, they both are politically motivated officials seeking to please the public while feigning to uphold justice. The illusion and hypocrisy of freedom, liberty and justice in America is pathetically veneer.

When I returned from the prison gymnasium yesterday, I made myself a post work out snack and sat on my bunk to eat and watch television while I did so. I had by coincidence just tuned in after Drew Peterson was found guilty and all the local news channels were reporting the event. Mobs outside the Will County Court House were jubilant. They sang songs and shouted insults at Drew Peterson and his attorneys. They had billboards with stick figures of Peterson being hung on a tree like times of past when quick lynchings were performed without due process of law. The signs read "Put the cocky one away" or "Justice for Stacy." The families of Stacy Peterson and Kathleen Savio were interviewed. Savio's family was most gleeful and Nick Savio compared it to the Chicago White Sox baseball team winning the World Series. I can understand a family who believes one of their loved ones was murdered feeling anger at Peterson and a sense of retribution. However, there is something odd comparing the guilty verdict to a sports event and their excessive happiness when Kathleen Savio is still dead. Families of victims can often think in terms of a competition and have great emotions that supersede rational truth seeking and justice. It is yet another reason why hearsay testimony of people, especially friends and family of the victim, should not be allowed. A trial should be based on credible evidence and not emotion, innuendo or suspicions.

Yesterday, I watched various news programs about the Drew Peterson case and his conviction, even the tabloid television programs on Headline News hosted by Jane Valez and former prosecutor Nancy Grace. Both of the women were obviously slanted against Peterson. They sought to further sensationalize and appeal to viewers' emotions dismissing law and evidence. More of the two women's families were interviewed or excerpts were taken from earlier reporting. For example, Kathleen Savio's mother was repeatedly quoted or shown yelling to defense attorneys that they could now "go smoke cigars downstairs with the red man in the suit." The fact she could not even properly articulate her words only emphasized to me the incredible emotions involved. Nancy Grace had Joe Lopez, one of the Drew Peterson's attorneys on, but he was attacked and not allowed to speak. At one point, Grace turned off his microphone only to continue arguing the state's dubious case. She went over how cops were called for domestic disputes 17 times. However, half of these calls made by Kathleen Savio involved Drew Peterson not returning the children they shared custody of on time, and two resulted in Kathleen being charged with battery. There is no doubt there was a contentious divorce and a tumultuous relationship proceeding it, but this did not prove murder. Nor did a blue barrel being moved out of Peterson's home which people speculated may have contained Stacy's body. Stacy weighed a little over 100 pounds. I doubt Peterson would have needed help especially from that of Stacy's brother to move it. Nancy Grace claimed to "blow to bits" Lopez' arguments. She claimed to have "torpedoed" his explanations and they didn't make any sense. The Will County State's Attorney also said to jurors to use their common sense. However, this is only a ploy to argue a case which has no evidence. Instead, Glasgow, Grace, and others want people to speculate. Speculation has no place in the court room.

Initially, jurors did not want to speak to the media. However, eventually it was learned the original vote was 7 to 4 with one undecided. The jury continued to deliberate until there was only one holdout. His name was Ron Supalo and I saw him interviewed from his automobile by a local television news reporter. He was of particular interest to the media because the jury seemed to have been deadlocked when after 9 hours a note was sent to the judge asking what "unanimous" meant. In jury trials, all 12 jurors must unanimously agree to convict a defendant. Ron Supalo said he was the reason for the impasse. He did not believe the hearsay testimony was credible. However, apparently after being pressured by the rest of the group he finally gave in. He said the most incriminating evidence came from Kathleen's divorce attorney, Harry Smith, and eventually he was convinced this was enough to find Drew Peterson guilty of murder. Ironically, it was the defense who put the divorce attorney on the stand to attack the credibility of Kathleen. The defense team was in a conundrum about how to discredit the witness of a person not even there to question. Joel Brodsky gambled and seemingly he lost. I recall when my lead attorney gambled with my life as well by choosing not to contest the testimony of the interrogating officer who claimed I admitted being told by my roommate he was going to kill the victim, and then lending him my car. I knew it was a blunder immediately and had vehement arguments with Bill Von Hoene. He refused to listen to me and later when I heard Robert Lovick and other jurors say this is why they convicted me, I was greatly disheartened.

On the Jane Valez Show, the question was asked, "What is Drew going through now?" People on the program said he loves attention and being in solitary confinement at the Will County Jail will be miserable for him. I am an introverted nonsocial person, but even if I was a social extrovert like Peterson, I do not think solitary confinement until my sentencing hearing on November 26th would be unwanted nor do I think he will care about the hearing. Drew Peterson has been convicted of 1st degree murder and will spend the rest of his life in prison failing to win his appeals, regardless if he is sentenced to the minimum of 20 years or maximum of 60. Peterson is 58 years old, and even the minimum will be a protracted death sentence, but I am sure he realized he will be sentenced to 60 just as I knew I would get a harsh sentence. The Palatine massacre still hung over my head and with Peterson, all the innuendo and speculation of his involvement in Stacy's death will be admitted during the hearing. Peterson probably will want to be left alone and I am sure he will be furious with his attorney as well as despondent. Yes, he has a good chance on appeal, but he will soon be sent to prison to enjoy the same oppression and obnoxious criminal low lifes I do. He may have even arrested some here as a Bolingbrook police officer. I doubt he will be sent to Stateville and more than likely he will be placed in protective custody at Pontiac C.C.

I have spent most of this post defending Drew Peterson, but even I tend to believe he is guilty in one of the two murders. However, there is a big difference between me thinking or speculating he is guilty and him being proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he is. The evidence submitted against Peterson was insufficient to convict him. I have plenty of reasonable doubt about the testimony presented at his trial and this is all that matters. When a person looks beyond the evidence, the law, or does not hold the state to the burden it has, this is when innocent people are convicted. There is a reason for the threshold of evidence being set high and there is a reason the founders of America explicitly wrote in the constitution about prohibitions of hearsay and ex post facto laws. They knew of wide abuses in the past. America was supposed to be a country where individual rights and liberty were inalienable rights. Drew Peterson may be guilty, but it was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt and his conviction sets an unprecedented usurpation of the rights of everyone. America was a free country where liberty was valued, but it has become an oppressive, unjust, police state. Indeed, yesterday was a "dark day for justice."

6 comments:

  1. In November 2008 Public Act 095-1004 was passed into Illinois Law. Dubbed “Drew’s Law” by the media, it addressed a certain kind of hearsay exception. In essence it made an exception for hearsay statements when it could be shown to a reasonable extent that the accused had killed a witness in order to keep them from testifying at a trial.

    State's Attorney Glasgow relied heavily on this statute in trying to get evidence admitted to Peterson’s trial but when eight statements were deemed unreliable due to the higher standards of reliability that the statute required, he then asked the court to consider the evidence under the Common Law hearsay exceptions which far exceed the example you gave. One common law exception is "Forfeiture by Wrongdoing" under which a defendant forfeits their right to confront a witness if it can he shown to a reasonable extent that the defendant made the witness unavailable to testify. This is not a new exception to the hearsay rule and it is in place because "the Constitution does not guarantee an accused person against the legitimate consequences of his own wrongful acts. It grants him the privilege of being confronted with the witnesses against him; but if he voluntary keeps the witnesses away, he cannot insist on the privilege".

    Ultimately the eight statements were considered on their own merits by a panel of three appellate justices and were deemed reliable and admissible. The new statute was Not the criteria for their decision. (Ironically, “Drew’s law” almost kept a majority of the hearsay evidence OUT of the trial.)

    Peterson's lead attorney, Joel Brodsky, even cedes that the so called "Drew's Law" was not used to admit the hearsay evidence to trial, saying:

    "...the States Attorney appealed and decided to change his argument from the statute he drafted to the Common Law doctrine of forfeiture by wrongdoing (Ill. Rule of Evidence 804(b)... As to why the media still says that Drew Peterson was convicted based on "Drew's Law", you will have to ask them - but I wouldn't hold my breath for an answer. "

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  2. Paul, you must admit that it is highly suspicious when an ex-wife dies and the current wife disappears! The law that allowed testimony from a lawyer and a minister is a good law! Without it, men would be killing and getting away with it--especially when the killer is a cop who knows how to plant or hide evidence!

    Perhaps you need to read the trial transcripts to really get the big picture. Peterson really thought he could get away with murdering his ex-wife, and when his current wife found out he felt he had to get rid of her too.

    His behavior in front of TV cameras showed the world he was truly a psychopath--much like the behaviors exhibited by your co-defendant Faraci. These types think they can get away with anything because everyone likes them! They show off, brag, and joke all the time. They are really mentally unstable and sickos.

    At least justice was served with the Peterson conviction. Faraci may think he's really clever and "beat the system," but he will face a higher judge some day.

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  3. You cannot convict a man soley because something looks highly suspicious.

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  4. i hope that someone with your sense of "justice" is never called on for anything significant.as oct 3rd said...you cannout convict a man based on suspicion,it isnt like we are saying he didnt do it...but if you cant say for sure he did without having doubts you just cannot.who cares how he acted on tv..who cares if he walked around with a machete that doesnt mean anything and it is obvious you dont understand the consequences of this situation. the case they had against him was a joke and i too believe he will almost for sure end up being released.. do i think he deserves to be there or he did it?? doesnt matter..in a perfect world they get some real evidence against him and he is given a suitable punishment...never leaving prison*...in our world though crazy shit happens..so if you can tell me there is absolutely no way his wife fell in the tub and there is absolutely no way his wife ran off with some new dick or someone snatched her up or she went to the lake ate a pb&j and got a cramp while swimming and drowned/washed out or any other absurd shit you can think of..if you can say none of this is possible or you understand what i am trying to say then i agree..if you cannot then again..refer to my first statement.. @facsmiley i havent followed it close enough to know all the details and i never rely on the news especially with shit like this..it is interesting though and i am going to look into it

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  5. My sense of justice is very understanding of the valid points you clearly make. This case was lost when joel brodsky called lawyer harry smith to testify. Petersons lawyers were outraged and dumbfounded by the stupidity of brodsky's plan. Even lopez finally had to shout "JOEL!" During his f-ck up. Harry smith killed them. The real lawyers on the case even admitted so. Brodsky is responsible here. I understand everything you said. I never intended for my above comment to be deemed as legal fact. You are right.

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  6. This is your best blog post yet! Gripping and logical...the last paragraph pulls it all together.

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