Drew's Law.... What now?

I do not claim to know a lot about this case.  I realize it has been in the media for several years and I know the crust of the crimes accused.  I can tell you that Drew Peterson was a police officer, that he was suspected (although several years later) of the death of his second wife and the disappearance of his third.

I am going to do this blog differently than the other ones. I am not going to give the details of the accused crime or the background of the accused.  I am not even planning to debate the guilt or innocence of Drew Peterson.  My concern with this case has to do with the legalities of how the trial was conducted and the evidence presented. I welcome anyone who has a different view or can maybe give details that I have not learned or been privy to, to comment and enlighten me or express their opinion.  

Prior to this case going to trial, the state of Illinois passed a law called "Drew's law" specifically for this case.  Drew's law basically allowed the victims to "speak" through other people.

If you ask anyone who has attended law school or done their research the laws for and against hearsay are the most confusing.  One used to hear that "hearsay" was not allowed.  Well that is not, and never has been completely true.  One way to explain a form of hearsay would be to think of it as gossip.  For example if I tell someone that someone else said or did something and then that person went and told someone else (including the court) that is hearsay.  However, if in most cases if I went into court and told them that someone said something to me it would not be.  The reason would be that I would be testifying as to something someone directly said to me or something I personally observed.  Of course that does not mean it is true but if I am testifying to this in court I have taken an oath to tell the truth and if it is found that I have lied under oath I too can face charges from the court.  However, if I tell someone else the story and that person takes an oath to testify to what I said, I am not under oath. Only the person testifying is under oath with the 'threat' of sanctions if it is found to be untruthful.  So I could tell a lie to someone about someone else and if that person testifies to what I told them the general rule is that it cannot make it into court because it could become a 'he said, she said' situation.  It has been said that there are more exceptions to the hearsay rule than any other and that is why it is confusing as to what is allowed and what is not. 

However, we also live in a society in which the justice system has often let us know that a defendant has the right to face their accusers.  I am not going to argue this necessarily.  As a general statement that sounds good, but there are situations where I can say I do not necessarily agree with this.  It is not my place to agree or disagree with the law.  There are several ways though, even in death, for one to be accused by another and a defendant has the right to "fight" or dispute that.  For example, in cases where there is DNA on a body or at a crime scene one could argue that the victim is accusing the defendant. This of course is where forensics come into play.

Forensics....this has become the backbone of our judicial system.  I am not going to sit here and tell you that every time DNA is found on a body or at a crime scene that a defendant is absolutely guilty, that is a case by case issue.    I am also not going to say that there are people, especially those involved in law enforcement, that would not know how to stage a crime scene or know what would be looked for and how to alter things or prevent some forms of forensics to be found.  Even with that said, this is where I have an issue with this case.....  There were no forensics.  Peterson's 2nd wife was found in her tub.  Initial reports classified it as an accident.  Several years later after his 3rd wife disappeared the death of his 2nd wife was re-opened and reclassified as a homicide.  Ok, I can possibly accept that.  Maybe the original coroner missed something, I do not know.  However, first by all accounts and things I have heard his 2nd wife was a fighter and she would have fought for her life.  Yet, there was no DNA under her fingernails.  Now, obviously since it was initially ruled an accident, presuming she had fallen in the tub (it should be noted by the time police found the body there was no water in the tub) it is unlikely that a lot of DNA samples would have been taken other than the body so the fact that there has been no talk of any other DNA being at the crime scene.  In any other case, this would have NEVER gone to court based on the physical and forensic evidence as nearly every other case is done.

Again, I am not going to argue the guilt or innocence of Drew Peterson here (at least not in the blog, we will see if there are comments) and what I think and I do understand that the jury as spoken.  My problem is that when laws like this are enacted they can be very detrimental to others that are accused. As each new law is made it seems the envelope gets pushed and pushed and once it is enacted it sets precedence meaning that cases after this case can refer to this case and show that the courts ruled on their side.  I have seen this done in other laws, most notably those involving grandparents rights that initial came about because one side was either being sent to bankruptcy or just being tired of the fighting.  Then every case after that could refer to a previous case and settle theirs regardless of how closely related they were.  It took many years to change those laws and I fear that unworthy people will be persecuted by this new law.  It seems that I have seen so many cases where there is a prosecutor or detective or a family member that is hell bent on making sure a particular person is brought to justice.  I have seen case after case where tunnel vision has ruined someone's life.  I fear that a law like Drew's Law will do the same.  


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