Thursday, September 6, 2012

EXTRA: An off-the-wall question, but a predictable outcome, for Peterson case

PETERSON: Verdict pleased, but was it proper?
We should have known something was up when, in mid-day Wednesday, jurors in a Will County courtroom asked Judge Edward Burmila to clarify exactly what “unanimous” means.

As in all 12 jurors have to agree on the same verdict in order for it to mean anything.

WAS THERE SOME sort of hard-headed juror who was being stubborn, and his colleagues wanted to know what they could do to overcome him (or her)? Was there really some confusion about whether majority was enough to reach a verdict?

Or was this truly a vacuous jury?

All I know is that when I learned of the question, it seemed that Barack Obama’s worst nightmare was about to come true. The big story today and into the Friday ayem newspaper cycle would be that of the verdict against one-time Bolingbrook cop Drew Peterson.

Who was going to give a squat what Obama would say on Thursday night in accepting the nomination of his political party to run for a second term as president?

AN ATTITUDE I find despicable and irritating. But one that I realistically have to acknowledge is felt by many. Cheap thrills and petty crime does have a knack of snatching attention away from serious matters.

And if it means an arrogant buffoon such as Drew Peterson officially crossed the line into becoming a corrupt cop (one who would kill his wife in order to allow himself to marry another, much younger, woman), I’m sure many people will rejoice in the “Guilty” verdict that was handed down Thursday afternoon.

Even though a part of me can’t help but think of that old Doonesbury strip from nearly four decades ago where the Mark Slackmeyer character used his radio show to do a Watergate-era program on then-Attorney General John Mitchell, whom he pronounced with a wild-eyed look to be, “Guilty! Guilty, guilty, guilty!”

Somehow, I sense the mood in Joliet on Thursday was just as crazed.

THE  REPORTS COMING from that city tell of the honking of horns and sirens, the singing of songs parodying Peterson’s plight, and even a mob that persisted in taunting defense attorneys while trying to leave the downtown Joliet courthouse – located within walking distance of the casinos.

It’s a wonder somebody didn’t get hurt.

It also doesn’t surprise me to learn that the jurors themselves sought to sneak out of the building as undetected as possible.

They would have been subjected to questioning about whether they found any substance to the hearsay testimony and lack of physical evidence that would have shown Peterson was present when Wife Number Three died.

IT IS THAT very weak evidence that had some people believing Peterson could actually be acquitted of the criminal charges – no matter how much the public mood against him is hostile.

It’s also not like the jury gave any evidence of what it thought. Usually, a juror or two is willing to discuss how a verdict was reached.

But in this case, the jury prepared a written statement that is a masterpiece of saying absolutely nothing. Unless you can interpret some significance to the one-liner of, “After much deliberation, we have reached a decision we believe is just.”

If it reads like I’m skeptical of the legitimacy of this verdict, I sort of am. But I can’t say it surprises me. I always expected the mood against Peterson to be so intense that it would sway the jury into a “guilty” verdict.

I FULLY SUSPECT that the same people who got all worked up on Thursday would have been outraged if a mistrial had been granted on any of the multiple instances during testimony that prosecutors overstepped their bounds.

But I also believe that this is a case where the appellate court decision is going to turn out to be more significant than the court verdict.

Which means the Peterson circus now gets to pack up its tent and leave Joliet for a 37-mile trip west on Interstate 80 to Ottawa – the location of the appellate court, which hasn’t seen such nonsense since the day more than a century-and-a-half ago when it hosted one of the Lincoln/Douglas debates.


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