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Appeals Court Upholds Limits On Hearsay Evidence At Drew Peterson Trial

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Drew Peterson

Former Bolingbrook police sergeant Drew Peterson arrives at the Will County Courthouse in Joliet, Ill., Friday, May 8, 2009, for his arraignment on charges of first-degree murder in the 2004 death of his former wife Kathleen Savio. (M. Spender Green/AP)

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Updated 07/26/11 – 7:27 p.m.

OTTAWA, Ill. (CBS) – An Illinois appeals court has upheld a Will County judge’s decision to prevent prosecutors from using some hearsay evidence against former Bolingbrook police officer Drew Peterson at his upcoming murder trial.

Prosecutors had wanted to use 14 hearsay — or second-hand — hearsay statements against Peterson at his murder trial, but Will County Judge Stephen B. White barred them from using eight of those statements. Prosecutors challenged White’s ruling before the Illinois Appellate Court in February.

A three-judge panel of the Third District Appellate Court ruled on Tuesday that it doesn’t have the jurisdiction to overturn that ruling. The judges wrote that they only way they could overturn White’s decision was if he abused his discretion, but they found his decision was reasonable.

“We’re gonna be able to try a case on the facts and the evidence, not upon a what he said/she said. And we’re looking forward to doing that and we’re confident we’re gonna get a not guilty,” defense attorney Joel Brodsky said Tuesday afternoon.

In a statement Tuesday evening, the Will County State’s Attorney’s office said it “strongly disagrees with the majority ruling in the Drew Peterson appeal.” Prosecutors said they would review the ruling before deciding whether or not to take their case to the Illinois Supreme Court.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Lisa Fielding reports

READ THE FULL RULING HERE

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.

But White ruled that eight statements made by Savio and Peterson’s missing fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, could not be used against Drew Peterson in his upcoming murder trial.

Prosecutors want jurors to hear testimony about statements that Savio and Stacy Peterson allegedly made about Peterson, but White has ruled them inadmissible. Prosecutors appealed that ruling to the Appellate Court.

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.

(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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