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Updated 11/30/11 – 4:09 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — The Illinois Supreme Court has ordered an appeals court panel to reconsider whether some hearsay evidence should be allowed in Drew Peterson’s murder trial.
As CBS 2′s Derrick Blakley reports, Peterson, 57, is charged with killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004. Her death was originally ruled an accidental drowning, but authorities reopened the case in 2007 after Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy, went missing.
Peterson, a former Bolingbrook police sergeant, is the main suspect in Stacy’s disappearance.
He has denied any wrongdoing in both cases.
Prosecutors want to use statements that Savio and Stacy Peterson made about Drew Peterson at his murder trial.
In the statements, both women speak about feeling threatened by Drew Peterson.
Stacy Peterson’s family spokeswoman Pam Bosco, said, “We believe Kathleen and Stacy were in, of course, grave danger and what they said to people is evidence of that and that’s what we’re hoping that comes out in court.”
Shortly before that trial was set to begin last year, prosecutors appealed the judge’s ruling barring them from using eight of the 14 statements at trial.
Four months ago, an appeals court panel dismissed the appeal as coming too late, saying prosecutors missed a 30-day deadline to file the appeal.
But as WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports, the Illinois Supreme Court is ordering the appeals court to review the ruling barring the hearsay statements, not the timeliness of the case.
“It’s good to see that a court has to judge evidence based on its reliability and not throw it out on a technicality,” Bosco said. “They had it thrown out on technicalities – a timing issue. So it’s good to see that they have to revisit it and actually look at the evidence itself.”
Peterson’s lawyer Joel Brodsky says this means another delay before his client finally has his day in court. Peterson’s been locked up now for 2 1/2 years.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger Reports
Brodsky says he’ll ask again that Peterson be freed from jail pending the outcome of the appeal.
Brodsky says with or without the evidence in question, prosecutors have no case that Peterson murdered his third wife, Kathleen Savio.
He says that’s why they’re terrified of going to trial and instead are dragging this out as long as they can.
Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow issued a statement: “I am extraordinarily pleased by Wednesday’s Illinois Supreme Court order. … I look forward to receiving an Appellate Court ruling on the merits of our appeal. … We anticipate a trial sometime in the spring.”
But Brodsky said he believes the statements ultimately will be excluded.
“If you were going to buy a used car, would you rely on hearsay? Some friend of yours saying, ‘Yeah, I saw the car and that’s a good car, you should buy it,’ or would you want to see the car yourself?” Brodsky said. “You wouldn’t buy a used car based on hearsay, how can you convict somebody of a crime based on hearsay?”
This latest ruling means it’s likely the trial won’t start until next spring, at the earliest.