Monday, August 20, 2012

Fair? Or Justice?

What should we think of the progressing trial for one-time suburban Bolingbrook cop Drew Petersen, who many people suspect (but can’t come up with definitive evidence to prove) killed off two of his wives?
PETERSON: When will he go away?

The ongoing story line has had several incidents where prosecutors in Will County said things meant to influence jurors in ways that would exceed the evidence that Judge Edward Burmila (himself the former state’s attorney for Will County) has previously determined will be allowed in the trial.

THERE HAS BEEN repeated talk of “mistrial,” although that hasn’t happened yet. Although it has some people convinced that the prosecutors have lost credibility and are on the verge of blowing this trial.

Peterson could wind up going free on charges that the death of his third wife was a murder, and not an accident as officials originally thought.

That may well happen. But not for the reason that many people are suggesting these days.

Because I honestly believe that this trial is headed for a “guilty” verdict. If there is to be an ultimate acquittal, of sorts, it’s going to come from an Illinois appellate court panel based in Ottawa.

AND I’M SURE that act will greatly offend the public. Much more than any actions being taken by prosecutors these days that are overstepping the bounds of “The Law!”

In fact, it wouldn’t shock me to learn that many people in our society are pleased to see the prosecutors playing hard and pushing their courtroom behavior to the limit!

Because while there may have been at least three incidents during the nearly two full weeks that began this trial that some consider improper, we also have to concede that none of these acts have resulted in a mistrial.

Or, worse yet, a mistrial “with prejudice” that would mean the error was so severe that all the criminal charges get dismissed – and Peterson really does become a ‘law-abiding’ citizen again. Some people may interpret that lack of a mistrial as evidence that the behavior is within appropriate limits.

I COULDN’T HELP but notice the reports that came out last week about how Burmila felt compelled to warn the people who sit in his cramped courtroom not to engage in any outbursts in response to the activity during the trial.

What was it that offended the spectators? It seems that some people were making known they disapproved of attempts by the defense attorneys to ask questions on behalf of Peterson!

How dare they attempt to defend their client – who probably is being bled dry financially in order to pay for the legal advice they’re giving him.

Then, there’s Jeff Ruby, who owns seven high-end restaurants in the Midwestern U.S. (and in Louisville, Ky., to be technical). He’s one of these guys who equates “law and order” with hard-line tactics and is willing to see certain limits be pushed.

HE ALSO DOESN’T seem to approve of defense attorneys. He says he is bothered by the attorneys working for Petersen, who may well get their client an acquittal on these charges. It seems to me that he seems to think that “justice” doesn’t necessarily have to be about “fairness.”

Ruby has made appearances on the Fox News Channel, and also has taken out full-page advertisements in the Joliet Herald-News newspaper to have statements published letting his disgust be known.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that the conduct of the defense attorneys has been over-the-top. I particularly find it appalling that one attorney is writing pieces being published by the Chicago Sun-Times on their website – although what really bothers me is that the Sun-Times has people who think that such legal babbling is interesting.

But somehow, I sense that when Ruby told the Herald-News newspaper last week that Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, “walks and he talks like a pro. He looks like a professional,” he may be speaking for a significant segment of  “the masses.”

THERE MAY WELL be a large number of people who are so eager for a “guilty” verdict in this case that they’ll overlook what they probably prefer to dismiss as “legal technicalities.”

Maybe we have people who aren’t so concerned about the high level of “hearsay” testimony that is being used in this particular case. And I might be in the minority of people whose disgust with this case isn’t so much with Peterson as it is with the level of tackiness that this trial has devolved with.

It is to the point where I don’t care about the outcome. I just want it to end. Nobody has the moral high ground these days at the courthouse in Joliet.


EDITOR’S NOTE: The Chicago Tribune contemplated the concept of whether jurors can really disregard comments made by prosecutors that Judge Burmila tells them to disregard.

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