Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Nun tops Drew on court scale

What is this world coming to? Drew Peterson was in court on Monday, and his case wasn’t even the biggest legal spectacle to occur in the Chicago area.

That would be the case of the Kane County nun, who went on trial for her behavior in an incident that left a teenage boy dead.

NOW PART OF what kept Peterson from making a fool of himself yet again was the fact that prosecutors managed to undermine his effort to get reduced bond. All he was able to do on Monday was enter the formal “not guilty” plea so his case could be assigned to a trial judge.

The way the courts work, he can later change the appeal to “guilty” once it gets to the new judge. No one pleads guilty immediately upon their arrest, especially not someone facing criminal charges for the death of wife number three when people suspect strongly that wife number four also perished in ways that qualify as criminal.

But prosecutors don’t like the judge being considered for the Peterson trial, because he’s the same judge who previously tossed out an attempt to make a criminal case against the one-time Bolingbrook police officer based on unlawful use of weapons charges (as though it should be a shock that a one-time lawman would own firearms).

So now, Will County Chief Judge Gerald Kinney will have to come in to try to resolve this dispute over who gets to be the judge at Peterson’s criminal proceedings. The matter will come up in court on Thursday. Once that issue is resolved, then another hearing will have to be held on the issue of whether or not $20 million as bond is excessive.

PETERSON’S ATTORNEYS SAY they think a $100,000 bond is more fair. Considering that it is the difference between having to come up with $2 million versus $10,000, it is a significant issue.

Until it is resolved, Peterson will continue to spend his time locked in solitary confinement at the Will County Jail – which means he’s kept away from other inmates, at least some of whom would like to establish a reputation for their “toughness” by trying to attack a former cop.

And while Drew spends the week in a cell by himself, with his only human contact being the guards who bring him his meals, the Kane County nun gets the legal spotlight to herself.

I’m sure that Sister Marie Marot would prefer not to have so much attention on her attire, or on her behavior. But she has her legal troubles due to a civil lawsuit and a court case – the latter of which began on Monday.

AT STAKE IS an incident nearly two years ago in Elgin while she was driving from a convent in Marengo to a church on the West Side of Chicago. Her van and an automobile struck each other. A 16-year-old boy died as a result of injuries suffered in the incident.

Police ultimately issued the ticket to Marot, despite the sister’s claims that the traffic signal at the intersection was “green,” giving her the right of way. To a cynic, everybody involved in an auto accident says the light was “green,” regardless of what it really was, although Marot’s attorneys insist she’s telling the truth.

What this case will come down to is the classic her word against that of the Elgin police.

Usually in “my word against yours” type cases, the sight of a police officer in uniform is enough to convince many would-be jurors that the lawman is telling the truth. Yet Marot may have the one professional piece of attire more powerful than a police officer’s badge – her habit.

THIS HAS BECOME the case that thus far has centered around what Marot is allowed to wear to court. She insists she ought to be allowed to wear her full dark gray and black robe with habit. She’s playing the “Nun card” and putting her faith in her ability to convince the jurors that she really thought she had the right of way at that particular intersection.

Prosecutors had tried to get some sort of court order preventing Marot from wearing her outfit to court. They even argued that some potential jurors might feel anti-Catholic prejudice against her.

But let’s be honest.

Prosecutors look for any legal advantage they can find. The last thing most prosecutors would care about is a defendant wearing something that might tick off a juror so much that the prosecution benefits.

WE NOW HAVE Kane County state’s attorney’s officials knowing that their careers are about to be defined this week. They were the ones who put a nun on trial for the death of a teenage boy – even though technically, this is just a traffic court case.

What is important to realize is that the teenager’s family has filed a lawsuit seeking financial compensation for the loss of their loved one. I don’t imagine Marot herself has much in the way of financial assets, but I would guess the parents are focusing on trying to get the church to have to pay something.

Yet if Marot is able to prevail and beat the case in traffic court, it goes a long way toward supporting her version of the accident story, and likely would result in any such lawsuit being perceived as a money-grubbing attempt to take from the church.

Be honest. With the exception of O.J. Simpson, few people are able to lose a civil lawsuit after prevailing in the criminal case related to the specific incident.

WE ALREADY HAVE jokes floating about the Internet about the prosecuting attorneys in this case reserving their spots in Hades for picking on a nun. How long until we get similar wisecracks about the family that dares to sue a nun?

And I’m sure some smart aleck will come up with a wisecrack about how Peterson will join them someday to make a perfect trio.


EDITOR’S NOTES: This might turn out to be a criminal case where the prosecution’s attorneys (http://www.chicagobreakingnews.com/2009/05/in-full-habit-nun-arrives-for-trial.html) got it right with their concerns about the defendant’s courtroom attire.

If Drew Peterson ultimately is acquitted, will it be because the evidence against him (http://www.chicagobreakingnews.com/2009/05/drew-peterson-to-be-arraigned-today.html) is weak, or because the judge is biased against prosecutors?

No comments: