UPDATED 02/16/11 4:52 p.m.
OTTAWA, Ill. (CBS) — A history-making hearing took place Wednesday afternoon in the Drew Peterson case.
For the first time ever, cameras were rolling inside an Illinois Appellate courtroom during arguments.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Steve Miller reports
For the first time in Illinois history, an appeals court hearing was broadcast live. Following a request by Chicago’s WGN-TV, media outlets shared a video feed from a single camera in the back of the Ottawa courtroom.
The Will County State’s Attorney’s office has appealed a ruling that barred hearsay evidence in Peterson’s murder trial.
The three-judge appellate panel is expected to take several days or weeks to rule.
Prosecutors’ want 13 hearsay statements admitted at the 57-year-old former Bolingbrook police officer’s murder trial.
Peterson has been charged with killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio. He is also a suspect in the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, but hasn’t been charged in that case.
Prosecutors have alleged that Peterson killed Savio in order to prevent her from testifying against him in court.
Savio’s sister, Sue Doman, said that’s why it’s all the more important for her to make sure people hear her sister’s voice from the grave.
“I want everyone to hear that I talked to her right before her death and she said that she didn’t want to leave. She didn’t want to die. She knew if something would happen … it would be portrayed as an accident,” Doman said.
But a lower court judge ruled that certain statements made by Savio and Peterson’s missing fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, could not be used against Drew Peterson in his upcoming murder trial.
Stacy Peterson’s sister Cassandra Cales said she believes Drew Peterson will be convicted of murder, even if statements her sister made to others are not allowed.
“I believe in my heart justice will be served,” Cales said.
After the hearing, prosecutors didn’t talk about the substance of their argument, but did talk about the presence of the video camera and how it felt to take part in Illinois history.
“I didn’t find them to be obtrusive or interfering in any way, so maybe this will be a precedent-setting day and the media will be there on a regular basis,” Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow said.
Defense attorneys said they believe a dangerous precedent would be set if all the hearsay statements are allowed to be used against Drew Peterson. They said that will amount to a miscarriage of justice against a man people love to hate.
Defense attorney Steve Greenberg said, “I think it’s a slippery slope. It’s a dangerous precedent.”
Prosecutors want jurors to hear testimony about statements that Savio and Stacy Peterson allegedly made about Peterson, but a Will County judge has ruled them inadmissible. Prosecutors have appealed that ruling.
Many legal experts praise the decision to allow cameras into Wednesday’s hearing as a step toward transparency.
Peterson, a former Bolingbrook police sergeant, faces murder charges in the death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. Her body was found in a dry bathtub on March 1, 2004.
Savio’s death was originally ruled an accidental drowning, but her body was exhumed after Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, disappeared on Oct. 29, 2007. A new autopsy reclassified Savio’s death as a homicide.
Stacy Peterson has long been presumed dead, but her body has never been found. Peterson is not charged in connection to her disappearance.
Peterson had been set to go to trial last summer, but the trial was halted the day before jury selection was to begin. Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow filed an appeal against county Judge Stephen B. White’s ruling regarding which statements will be allowed into evidence under the hearsay exception.
Judge White retired in October. When the case finally goes to trial, another judge will preside.