CHICAGO (CBS) — An editorial in the Chicago Sun-Times says accused wife killer Drew Peterson should be freed from jail.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports, the editorial does not say Peterson should be able to come and go as he pleases, but that he should be let out of the Will County Jail and put under house arrest.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports
“To keep him in jail while prosecutors plod through yet another round of pretrial motions is to deny him his constitutional right to be free, in the words of the Eighth Amendment, of ‘cruel and unusual punishments,’” the editorial said.
Peterson, a former Bolingbrook police sergeant, is charged with murder in the 2004 death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio.
He has been held in the Will County Jail on $20 million bond since May 2009, and is now petitioning the Illinois Supreme Court for release.
Peterson had been set to go on trial in July 2010, but the trial was postponed the day before jury selection was to begin due to an appeal by prosecutors seeking to allow hearsay statements. The Illinois Appellate ruled in July that prosecutors had filed their appeal late.
Prosecutors are now appealing that decision to the Illinois Supreme Court, which could take more than a year, and Peterson’s attorneys say his constitutional right to a speedy trial is being violated.
The Sun-Times points out that there are “sensible exceptions” to the rule that holding a defendant awaiting trial in custody for years amounts to a constitutional violation, such as a case of murder “where the proof is evident or the presumption great.”
But Peterson’s case does not qualify as such an exception, the Sun-Times argues, given that hearsay seems to be the “core” of prosecutors’ case.
The Sun-Times added further that prosecutors have not made a case that Peterson is a threat to witnesses or society in general if not held in custody, and “will be watched wherever he goes” if released.
The newspaper emphasizes that it is not arguing in favor of going back to late 2007 and 2008, when Peterson was making the rounds on talk shows and became a national media sensation.
“If Peterson is allowed the greater freedom of house arrest, we’ll be as annoyed as anybody if he starts setting up dates with callers to a talk radio show, as he did before,” the editorial said.
Savio was found dead in the drained bathtub of her Bolingbrook home on March 1, 2004. Initially, the death was ruled an accidental drowning, but a second autopsy, performed in November 2007, found that the death was a homicide.
Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, disappeared in October 2007. Peterson has never been charged in her disappearance, but members of her family have suspected him from the beginning.
Peterson has maintained his fourth wife ran way with another man, but her family members say that is absurd, and that Stacy would never abandon her children.