Can The Dead Testify? Perhaps Not.

While some wags would argue that the dead should be able to testify in Illinois, since they certainly vote in Chicago, the Illinois Appellate Court came down against "Drew's Law."

This story was covered in both the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times.

Drew Peterson, the infamous, mustachioed ex-cop, who has managed to evade law enforcement seemingly forever could be closer to getting out of jail a free man after the Court's decision on Tuesday July 26, 2011. Peterson has been confined to jail for the last two years on charges he killed his third wife. He is also believed to be responsible for the "disappearance" of his fourth wife. No charges have been brought with regard to Stacy Peterson.

Will County Prosecutor, James Glasgow, hoped the passage of the law known commonly as "Drew's Law" would aid him in prosecution of Peterson by allowing certain "reliable" hearsay statements into evidence. Essentially, the law allowed statements outside of court made by the dead person to others indicating that the dead believed the accused was trying to kill them to get rid of evidence. The general rule in most courts in the Western World has long been that hearsay is not admissible except in rare circumstances and specific exceptions.

Heresay evidence (out of court statements made to prove the truth of the matter asserted without the person making the statements present in court for cross examination) is excluded because it does not allow one to face his or her accuser or cross examine them. A statement such as "She told me he was going to kill her if she didn't give him everything in the bank account" would be disallowed as evidence because of its inherent unrelability. A statement made out of court where someone reports the accused said "I hate you and I'm going to kill you right now if you don't grant me that divorce and sign right here" might be allowed in that it could arguably fall under the "excited utterance" exception to hearsay.

In short, it's hard to know what is reliable or not but the Court in this case excluded the lion's share of the 14 hearsay statements Glasgow wished to introduce. The now-retired Judge Stephen White determined these statements were not reliable enough to admit and ruled against Glasgow and the prosecutors.

This law was designed to allow the deceased to "speak from the grave" using domestic violence reports, statements made by the deceased to others, and other evidence generally considered hearsay and deemed unreliable.

While many have groused that the law should be able to "get" Peterson, the smug man with the wink and the seemingly endless supply of disappearing wives, the fact is that the law was half-baked and poorly designed in the first place, seemingly turning on its head two centuries of Anglo American jurisprudence.

Whether Glasgow appeals to the Illinois Supreme Court remains to be seen.

A good day for justice overall. A good day for Drew Peterson. Perhaps not such a great day for Drew Peterson's wives.

Categories: General