Saturday, October 3, 2009

Tired of Olympic politicking, how about Drew Peterson? He’s still around

On the same day that Mayor Richard M. Daley’s political reputation took a blow (even though I doubt the International Olympic Committee seriously cared about Chicago’s political “controversies”), Drew Peterson also suffered a loss.

Remember Drew? He’s been whiling his time away in the Will County Jail, while his attorneys try to come up with a strategy that prevents a jury from imposing the “guilty” verdict that a large segment of our society is so anxious for him to get.

THE NUMBER OF people who want the ex-Bolingbrook cop to rot in prison likely is larger than the share of Chicagoans who wanted the 2016 Summer Olympics to come to the Second City.

But it was along this line that Peterson was in court on Friday, where a Will County judge ultimately rejected his request.

Specifically, Peterson’s attorneys put in the legal motion that is common of all high-profile criminal defendants – a change of venue.

He wants his trial held somewhere other than Joliet, Ill. He says that local residents are so biased against him that there’s no way his “peers” who wind up in the jury pool will be willing to look at his case with unbiased objectivity.

FOR HIS PART, Judge Stephen White rejected the request, which would be a significant hassle for prosecutors who would have to relocate their operations to a place where they are not familiar with the locale.

It also would create a hassle for the corrections types in Will County who would have to figure out how to transport Peterson to and from whatever county wound up getting the trial.

About the only person who would benefit from moving a trial would be Peterson himself, which is why many people will instinctively be opposed to the idea.

But this is one of those instances where we need a judge to behave like an impartial observer – an automaton, of sorts – when studying the facts.

BECAUSE THE FACT of this instance is that Peterson’s criminal case has been so heavily publicized and had so many stupid stunts attached that it probably will be hard to find a Will County resident who doesn’t have some previously-set opinion.

And I’d argue that the people who go before prosecutors and say they can be objective most likely are lying so they can get on the jury and be the one who (in their mindset) puts the hammer to Drew.

Of course, that creates the other part of this problem.

Peterson’s PR people have followed a strategy similar to those working for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich – they have turned him into a national figure. So it is very likely that there isn’t anywhere in the country where one could pick a jury pool that wouldn’t have some sentiment about Peterson – unless one is willing to accept people who go to such extremes to cut themselves off from our society at large that they’re absolutely clueless about everything.

THEN AGAIN, WHEN one considers that pay for jury service is $17.50 per day (the cost of parking and lunch), it could be argued that one gets exactly what they pay for.

White didn’t exactly specify the reasoning for his decision to reject Peterson’s request. But my guess would be that he figured a Will County resident would be no more tainted by all the pre-trial publicity (most of which was brought on by Drew himself) than someone living elsewhere.

So it wasn’t worth the added expense of moving a trial, unless someone seriously thinks Drew is entitled to something resembling a final vacation trip before being sent off from a county jail to a state correctional facility.

That likely will be the same reasoning used when Peterson’s attorneys make the follow-up motion some point in the future – to bring in a jury from another county and have them preside over a trial held at the courthouse in downtown Joliet located just a few blocks from that city’s riverboat casinos (which really aren’t riverboats anymore and are perpetually docked).

WE SHOULD KEEP in mind that the Peterson legal saga is going to be filled with many legal motions on different strategies – all aimed at keeping certain bits of evidence away from a jury.

In particular, they want the prosecution to be forbidden to use those letters written by Peterson spouse Kathleen Savio where she wrote how much she feared her husband. Such “evidence” would be hearsay, along with the fact that only portions of Savio’s autopsy were made public – rather than the whole thing.

This whole affair is one that will be filled with ridiculous gestures on all sides. It’s not the most solid of criminal cases (no matter how much the general public wants to believe it is). This case is bound to give the general public many headaches in coming months.

It may even do what I would now consider the unthinkable – get people to reminisce fondly about when the “big story” in the news was whether or not Chicago would get to host an Olympiad.


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