Will Drew Peterson Go Free?

By BJ Lutz and Charlie Wojciechowski
|  Thursday, Jul 8, 2010  |  Updated 6:43 AM CDT
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Prisoners can't be held during an appeal, according to state law.

Prisoners can't be held during an appeal, according to state law.

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The postponement of Drew Peterson's murder trial could mean that the former Bolingbrook police sergeant will walk out of the Will County Jail, where he's been held since his arrest in March 2009.

Under Illinois law, a defendant cannot be held during an appeal unless there are "compelling reasons."

The trial for the man many suspect killed his wife was scheduled to begin Thursday with jury selection.  But prosecutors on Wednesday appealed a decision made a day earlier by Judge Stephen White regarding which statements will be allowed into evidence under the state's new hearsay law. 

The appeal came on the heels of an Illinois Supreme Court ruling upholding the conviction of Eric HansonHanson was sentenced to death for killing his parents, sister and her husband nearly five years ago. 

The court unanimously rejected Hanson's position that hearsay statements are not reliable enough to be allowed under common-law doctrine.

In light of the new law contained in Hanson, Will County State’s Attorney Glasgow said he believes the prosecution is entitled to present additional hearsay statements in Peterson's trial.

"The people of the state of Illinois are entitled to a fair trial, and I intend to see that they get one," Glasgow said in a written statement.  "As State’s Attorney, I am obligated to appeal the judge’s ruling to ensure that every legally admissible statement may be presented at trial."

Defense attorney Joseph Lopez said prosecutors "chickened out," and said he believes the appeal will be denied and the charges dismissed.

Lopez said he will ask for Peterson's release. 

Peterson has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the 2004 death of his ex-wife, Kathleen Savio.  Her death originally was ruled an accident after her body was found in an empty bathtub. Her body was exhumed after the disappearance of Drew Peterson's fourth wife.  Savio's death was later ruled a homicide.

Peterson has been named a suspect but isn't charged in the 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson.  He denies any involvement in her disappearance and maintains she left him and the children for another man.

During a hearing earlier this year to determine what hearsay evidence a jury would be allowed to hear, several witnesses testified Savio told them she feared Peterson would kill her and had even sneaked into her house and held a knife to her throat and threatened her life.

They also presented witnesses who told of conversations they had with Stacy Peterson, including a pastor who testified Stacy told them she had helped Peterson concoct a fake alibi the weekend Savio's body was found.

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