Opening statements were expected Tuesday in the trial in Chicago of Drew Peterson, a former suburban police officer charged with killing his third and fourth wives. The third drown in a bathtub in 2004. The fourth disappeared in 2007. The case may hinge on prosecutors' efforts to present testimony “from the grave,” reports the New York Times. Statements that family and friends say the two women made to them about Peterson have led to a three-year legal battle over whether they can be used during the trial. Do they meet the standard of credible evidence? Do they violate the defendant's Sixth Amendment right to face his accuser?
For decades, courts have allowed some types of secondhand testimony, but the conflict involving the trial of Peterson, 58, has highlighted the intricacies of hearsay laws in Illinois and across the country. Last week, a judge ruled that he would evaluate the statements separately as the trial unfolded, despite an appellate court ruling in April that provided clearance for admitting them. The burden is on prosecutors to prove that some of their most striking evidence should not be ignored. The tabloid tale has been bizarre from the beginning, inspiring a Lifetime movie and prompting Peterson to appear on “Dr. Phil” and “Larry King Live.”