EXAMPLE LEGAL OFFICE MEMORANDUM
TO: Blank, J.D.
FROM: Blank, Paralegal.
DATE: 12 April 2021
CASE: People v. Peterson, 2017 IL 120331
RE: Hearsay Rules.
STATEMENT OF ASSIGNMENT
You have asked me to prepare a legal memorandum that examines the hearsay rule in light of the
Drew Peterson case. Pursuant to your request, this memo includes an analysis of Article VIII of
the Federal Rules of Evidence and hearsay rules in regard to this case.
What was the hearsay issue in this case? How important was the hearsay rule to the States case?
At the defendant’s trial for the first-degree murder of his third ex-wife, the trial court did not err by admitting her hearsay statements under the doctrine of forfeiture by wrongdoing codified in Ill. R. Evid. 804(b)(5), because there was a strong inference that he murdered her to prevent her from testifying in their divorce proceedings; -725 ILCS 5/115-10.6(e)(2)’s imposition of a reliability requirement for the admission of statements under the doctrine of forfeiture by wrongdoing created an irreconcilable conflict with Ill. R. Evid. 804(b)(5), and separation of powers principles dictated that the rule would prevail; -The trial court did not err by admitting statements from the defendant’s fourth wife under Ill. R. Evid. 804(b)(5), as there was a strong inference that he murdered her to prevent her from talking to police or testifying at his murder trial. The hearsay question, in this case, was whether Drew Peterson’s constitutional right to confront witnesses testifying against him was violated by the hearsay claims made by his dead third wife and missing the fourth wife. Because of proof that Peterson killed them to suppress their testimony, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the hearsay testimony did not violate his constitutional right to challenge his accusers. The hearsay rule was also important because it lead to Drew Peterson’s conviction. It was also important in the Illinois legislature passing “Drew’s law 2,” a new exception to the state’s hearsay rule, in 2008. The investigation into Peterson’s third wife’s death and fourth wife’s disappearance prompted this legislation. The prosecutor must also bring the testimony of murder victims into evidence if the prosecution can show that the defendant murdered the speaker by a preponderance of the evidence at a pretrial hearing. The speaker was killed by the defendant in order to prevent him from testifying against him.
Stacy Peterson was reported missing on October 29, 2007, after failing to show up at her sister’s residence. Drew Peterson was the last person to see her alive until she died. Peterson was publicly named a suspect in the disappearance of his fourth wife on November 9, 2007. Investigators reopened the inquiry into Peterson’s third wife’s death during the course of the investigation into her disappearance. Kathleen Savio’s body was discovered in a dry bathtub in 2004, just weeks before a hearing to resolve monetary and child custody problems stemming from her divorce from Peterson. Her death was originally ruled to be the result of an unintentional drowning. Savio’s body was exhumed and forensically examined on November 13, 2007. An autopsy was performed on November 16, 2007, and her death was declared a homicide. Drew Peterson was charged with the first-degree murder of his third ex-wife on May 7, 2009. Prosecutors relied on hearsay comments made by Savio to family members and a written statement to police before she died because they had no physical proof linking Peterson to Savio’s death and no witnesses putting him at the scene. Savio had written to the state’s attorney’s office in Will County, expressing her worry that Peterson would kill her. Prosecutors have relied on hearsay claims made by Stacy Peterson to her pastor and a divorce attorney before she vanished. Rev. Neil Schori, Stacy Peterson’s pastor, and Harry Smith, Savio’s former divorce lawyer, were the two primary witnesses. Rev. Schori testified that Stacy told him she awoke in the middle of the night the same night Savio was killed and found her husband was not in bed, that Drew told her he had killed Savio and then coached her to lie to police about it to provide a false alibi, and that Drew told her he had killed Savio and then coached her to lie to police about it to provide a false alibi. Stacy was planning to divorce Drew, and Smith testified that she wanted to know if “the fact that he killed Kathy could be used against him” as leverage. Stacy vanished just days after that phone call with Smith. On September 6, 2012, Peterson was found guilty of the premeditated murder of Savio and sentenced to 38 years in jail. Jurors admitted that the most compelling evidence was based on the hearsay statements allowed under Drews Law”. After a number of appeals, on September 21, 2017, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld the conviction. The U.S. Supreme court has refused to grant Drew Peterson a new trial. Stacy Peterson is presumed dead, though her body has never been found. Drew Peterson remains a suspect in her disappearance, but he has never been charged.
In general, the courts will not allow statements that a person made outside of court into evidence
unless the person who made them is available to testify so that the defendant can cross-examine
the speaker 3. This is because convicted suspects have the right to challenge their accusers under the United States Constitution. The United States Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that hearsay violates a defendant’s right to confront a witness testifying against him or her under the Sixth Amendment. Despite reforms made by Illinois lawmakers to the state’s hearsay rule in 2008, prosecutors in the Peterson case tried to admit claims made by Savio, but the trial court judge declined. In 2008, Illinois passed a special law allowing hearsay proof in rare cases where prosecutors suspect an individual was murdered to suppress his or her testimony. On appeal, the Court of Appeals overturned the trial court’s opinion, holding that the statements should be accepted under the common law doctrine of forfeiture by wrongdoing, which is less stringent than “Drews Law.” Since there was a clear presumption that he killed her to keep her from testifying in their divorce proceedings, the Illinois appellate court accepted the hearsay claims under the doctrine of forfeiture by wrongdoing codified in Ill. Rules of Evidence 804(b)(5) 6. The ruling of the Illinois Supreme Court was upheld.
 Lexis Nexis, People v. Peterson, 2017.
 U.S. Constitution, Amendment IV.
 Illinois Complied Statutes, 725 ILCS/115-10.6, 2020.
 Lexis Nexis, People v. Peterson, 2017.
 Illinois Case Law, People v. Peterson, 2017.
 Federal Rules of Evidence 803.
 Lexis Nexis, People v. Peterson, (3d) 100514-B, 968 N.E.2d 204, 2012 Ill, 2012.
 Lexis Nexis, People v. Peterson, 2015 IL App (3d) 130157, 47 N.E.3d 1005, 2015 Ill, 2012.
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