Drew Peterson is not leaving prison. At least not anytime soon.
In a unanimous ruling, the Illinois Supreme Court said Thursday that the use of hearsay testimony to convict Peterson in the death of his third wife was proper.
Specifically, the Illinois court, in a unanimous decision, found that hearsay testimony from Peterson's dead third wife and missing fourth wife did not violate his constitutional right to confront his accusers.
The 63-year-old former police sergeant from the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook is serving a 38-year sentence in the 2004 death of ex-wife Kathleen Savio. He's also serving a 40-year sentence after a conviction last year for soliciting the murder of James Glasgow, the Will County prosecutor who put him behind bars.
“This is the ultimate vindication for what we did,” Glasgow said Thursday. “When Drew Peterson was telling these women, ‘I could kill you and make it look like an accident’, he never imagined that those statements would survive, once he killed them.”
Savio's body was found in a dry bathtub in 2004. Her death was initially ruled accidental, but the case was reopened after the 2007 disappearance of Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson. Savio's body was exhumed, an autopsy was conducted and her death was ruled a homicide.
Prosecutors had no physical evidence tying Peterson to Savio's death and no witnesses placing him at the scene, so they relied on hearsay statements Savio made to others before she died and that Stacy Peterson made before she vanished.
Hearsay is any information reported by a witness that is not based on the witness' direct knowledge. The U.S. Supreme Court has carved out exceptions for hearsay in cases where a defendant's actions likely prevented the witness from testifying. Illinois passed a hearsay law in 2008 tailored to Drew Peterson's case, dubbed ``Drew's Law,'' which assisted in making some of the evidence admissible.
Not everyone was pleased with the high court’s decision.
“There are two bodies of law in this state,” said Peterson’s defense attorney Steve Greenberg. “The law applied to most, and the law as applied to Drew Peterson.”
“When it comes to Mr. Peterson, the laws were changed, the rules were broken, and in some respects, trial counsel was deficient,” he said. “The ruling today demonstrates that courts are willing to overlook the obvious to achieve a certain result.”
Stacy Peterson is presumed dead, though her body has never been found. Drew Peterson remains a suspect in her disappearance, but he has never been charged. On Thursday, Glasgow indicated that could change.
“There is evidence that could potentially reach the level that we would need to bring a charge,” he said.
Specifically, the Will County prosecutor pointed to comments by Peterson’s son Stephen in the Lifetime network documentary, where during a paid interview, he expressed the feeling that his father “probably” killed Savio.
“You never could have enough murder convictions on a murderer,” Glasgow said.
In an unrelated note, Glasgow confirmed that he is at least entertaining the idea of a run for Illinois Attorney General, after the decision this week by incumbent Lisa Madigan not to seek re-election.
“I certainly am very qualified,” he said. “I haven’t made any decisions about the attorney general’s office but it certainly has been something I’ve thought about over my career.”
Drew Peterson was transferred from a state prison in Chester, Illinois, to a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, in February, after state prison officials cited concerns that he posed a security threat.
Photo Credit: M. Spencer Green/AP, File