Drew's Law Changing Admissibility of Hearsay Evidence?
Illinois Court Created Law in 2008 Being Used in Drew Peterson Case
By: Joseph Giacalone
The initial manner of death for Savio was declared as Accidental, but upon the disappearance of ex-wife number four, the body was exhumed and the manner of death was changed to Homicide. Once again, a reminder for law enforcement investigators everywhere from me: "Every case should be treated as if is a homicide until proven otherwise." The police handled the case initially as if it was an accidental death so they did not establish a crime scene. But this is not the crux of what is really happening in the courtroom.
There was no physical or forensic evidence that tied Peterson to the crime. The case is based strictly circumstantial, with no hard evidence to back it up. That is not entirely unusual. The issue in this case has to deal with the admissibility of Hearsay Testimony in the courtroom. Hearsay testimony is from someone that wrote or said something and is not in the courtroom. In addition, the statement that Savio made would be considered an assertive one - meaning that the person who said it or wrote it intended to convey a thought or belief. Assertive statements are not allowed as testimony because they are Hearsay as per the Federal Rules of Evidence (Rule 801c). Hearsay was not admissible unless it was from a Dying Declaration. However, Prosecutor's are using Peterson's own words against him. Words from the victim to another, that in sum and substance said, "Drew said he would kill me and make it look like an accident" and a hand written note stating that she feared her husband would kill her.
What about the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause? Hearsay was always excluded because the defendant was unable to confront their accuser in court. It is going to be interesting to see what future juries decides after this case. It could have ramifications in many courtrooms across the United States. Remember, it is not what you know, feel or think, it's what can be proven in court.
PS: I'm not a lawyer nor do I purport to be one. So this is not legal advice and shouldn't be taken as legal advice.
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