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Drew Peterson Prosecutors Filed Hearsay Appeal Too Late, Appellate Court Rules

Posted Jul 27, 2011 9:55 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Jurors deciding the fate of former Bolingbrook, Ill., police officer Drew Peterson won’t be allowed to consider a variety of hearsay evidence because prosecutors failed to appeal a trial court ruling within a 30-day window, an appeals court says.

The Illinois Appellate Court’s 3rd District ruled Tuesday that prosecutors missed a deadline in one of three interlocutory appeals challenging evidence rulings. Peterson was accused of killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio, after his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, disappeared. The Chicago Tribune covered the decision (PDF), which split 2-1 on the missed deadline.

The trial judge had excluded eight hearsay statements on May 18, 2010, and the state did not file a motion for reconsideration or an appeal within 30 days, the opinion said. The appeals court did not describe the excluded evidence in detail, but the Tribune said it included statements Savio made to her divorce lawyer that Peterson had threatened to kill her and make it look like an accident. Other excluded statements had been made by Stacy Peterson.

The trial judge had ruled six other hearsay statements were admissible. The appeals court noted that some of the excluded allegations may still be presented to the jury in the admissible hearsay, including a statement Stacy Peterson made to her pastor about an alleged encounter with Drew Peterson on the night Kathleen Savio died.

The appeals court also upheld the trial judge’s exclusion of “other-crimes evidence,” including testimony about past incidents of domestic abuse and threats by Peterson against Savio and his second wife. The opinion also upheld the judge’s exclusion of expert testimony by a lawyer about how Peterson would have been impacted financially by a divorce from Savio.

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