People of the State of Illinois v. Drew Peterson

968 N.E.2d 204 (2012)

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People of the State of Illinois v. Drew Peterson

Illinois Appellate Court
968 N.E.2d 204 (2012)

Facts

Drew Peterson (defendant) and Kathleen Savio were a formerly married couple that had gotten divorced. Following the divorce, Drew married Stacy, though litigation between Drew and Savio continued after Peterson remarried. On March 1, 2004, Savio was found dead. The coroner ruled that Savio’s death was an accident. On October 27, 2007, Stacy disappeared and was never found. Stacy’s family believed that she had been murdered. After Stacy’s disappearance, Savio’s body was exhumed, and additional autopsies were performed. The pathologist conducting the autopsies concluded that the cause of Savio’s death was homicide. The State of Illinois (plaintiff) charged Peterson with Savio’s murder. The trial judge made an evidentiary ruling excluding testimony from Stacy’s pastor, Neil Shori, and Savio’s former lawyer, Harry Smith, as inadmissible hearsay evidence. Shori was prepared to testify that Stacy had told Shori that on the night Savio was killed, Stacy had noticed that Drew was not in bed, she saw him throwing clothes from a bag and his own clothes into the laundry, and Drew had told Stacy that he had killed Savio and instructed Stacy to lie to the police. Smith was prepared to testify that Stacy told him that she planned to divorce Drew and asked if the fact that Drew had killed Savio could be used as leverage in the divorce. In making this ruling, the judge considered whether such testimony was admissible under a statute that created a hearsay exception for the intentional murder of a witness that applied when an individual murdered someone with intent to prevent that person from testifying as a witness. The judge found that the state had proven by a preponderance of the evidence that Drew had murdered Savio and Stacy with the intent to make them unavailable as witnesses. However, the judge also found that the circumstances surrounding Stacy’s statements to Shori and Smith did not indicate the statements’ reliability as required under the statute’s hearsay exception. The state appealed the evidentiary ruling.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Holdridge, J.)

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