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Opening Arguments

Hear ye, hearsay

I don't want to sound like a defender of Drew Peterson. Anybody whose third wife dies in a suspicious bathtub accident and whose fourth wife disappears off the face of the earth is probably somebody to be avoided, and just a cursory look at his life for the past few years shows a pretty despicable human being. But in their zeal to get him, Illinois authorities are resorting to "evidence" the use of which should trouble us all:

Legislation goes into effect that is expected to give Will County prosecutors a powerful new took in probing the Savio slaying and Stacy Peterson's disappearance. The legislation is to allow as evidence hearsay statements from murdered witnesses. The new legislation could come into play in connection with a minister who has said Stacy Peterson told him that Drew Peterson killed Savio. In the Savio case, Savio sent a letter to a prosecutor that said, Peterson “knows how to manipulate the system, and his next step is to take my children away. Or kill me instead.”

Such hearsay evidence is usually disallowed for the very good reason that it can't be rebutted by the defendant, who is not supposed to have the burden of proof in a criminal trial. Who among us hasn't been the subject of angry words, either spoken or written, by someone we've offended or was just mad at us? Imagine that showing up in a trial. Granted, for most of us, the accusations won't be on the order of "I'm pretty sure he's going to kill me sometime soon," but, you know, that old slippery slope.