Saturday, May 9, 2009

Drew Peterson: From Cathouse to the Big House?

by Pat Brown

I can't think of more than a handful of people (seriously deluded ones) who wouldn't like to see the smirk wiped off of Drew Peterson's face. Surely some folks cheered in front of their television sets when they learned "I'm So Sexy" Peterson lost his opportunity to be a star of "Cathouse," the HBO reality brothel show filmed at the Nevada brothel known as the "Moonlight Bunny Ranch." Cops showed up at near Peterson's home today, stopped his vehicle, and carted Drew off to the much less entertaining venue known as jail.

"Nobody Actually Thinks You're Sexy" Peterson will be cavorting with lifers instead of hookers if the prosecution succeeds in convicting him of murdering his third wife, Kathleen Savio, the wife who was found dead in the bathtub (not the wife who went missing in 2007 . . . or the one who had her car brakes tampered with . . . or the one who says he wasn't really that bad a character when she was married to him).

I hope Drew Peterson gets what's coming to him. I think he is guilty as heck of making Stacy Peterson, Wife Number Four disappear. I think he is likely guilty as heck of the bathtub death of Wife Number Three. But, I also hope he does not get convicted without solid evidence even if I think he deserves a bum deal.

Why am I so concerned about what happens to a creep like Drew Peterson? I will tell you. The law is supposed to be impartial, the jury is supposed to be impartial, and if we allow the courts to convict people simply because the jury (and the community) doesn't like the defendant, then we are allowing our justice system to become a mockery.

Most "wrongful conviction" news in recent years has involved the Innocence Project, a group that is more interested in getting rid of the Death Penalty than getting innocent folk out of jail. This is why they don't bother with lifers. They also focus strictly on DNA evidence and, regardless of an often overwhelming pile of evidence proving guilt of the convicted felon, they work to get the killer freed on some DNA screw-up, technicality or irrelevant point (like the semen belonged to the victim's last date before the killer broke in and murdered her, or the semen belonged his partner-in-crime who was never identified). I don't see them taking up cases where the convicted man got life for being unlikeable.

Michael Skakel was one of those unlucky schmucks. Sure, he did masturbate in trees as a teenager and he was an arrogant member of the Kennedy clan and he had a big mouth he should have kept closed. Maybe he should have shut up, but he shouldn't have been convicted of killing Greenwich, Connecticut teenager Martha Moxley decades ago (1975) on less evidence than connected original suspect Ken Littleton to the crime. Littleton, a pretty creepy character who failed the polygraph test more than once, continued living with the Skakel brothers even though he had to "know" one of them committed the crime. But, no matter—Skakel was a Kennedy and Mark Fuhrman made him the villain, and the jury decided Skakel was creepier than Littleton. Guilty.

And what about Paul Dubois who supposedly gunned down Linda Silva in Cape Cod in 1996? He got convicted because his ex-girlfriend said she once saw a gun of Paul's that could have been the gun used in the murder and she wrote down the serial number on some toilet paper. Dubois may be a shady character that the community won't miss but if he didn't kill Silva, someone else did.

In Tennessee in 2003, James David Johnson got convicted of killing 73-year-old Florence Jean Hall in her garage purely on his confession. It didn't seem to matter to the jury (or maybe the prosecution withheld the information) that not one bit of physical evidence existed in the case. Although Johnson supposedly killed Mrs. Hall late in the afternoon, the woman had gone missing early in the morning, never showed up for any of her appointments and she never came home for lunch as she routinely did. The family apparently didn't feel the need to call and see if Mom was dead in a ditch (or dying on the floor of the garage since morning). Sure, Johnson is no stranger to crime, but if he didn't commit this one, someone else should be sitting in his place.

Which brings me back to Drew Peterson, no nominee for Boy Scout of the Month. In the case of Kathleen Savio, I tend to believe if a jury does convict Peterson without anything more than innuendo and some curious circumstantial evidence, they have the right man. But setting a trend of convicting people for being unlikeable rather than convicting them on sufficient evidence is not a good thing; an innocent (at least of that crime) guy goes to prison and the guilty party remains on the street to kill again.

I am waiting to find out what the probable cause was to arrest Drew Peterson. Something has to link Peterson to the Savio's home that night and to a violent assault on her. I doubt physical evidence exists so we can eliminate that. This leaves witnesses and/or confession.

Just in time to benefit the Will County prosecutors, Illinois amended the hearsay law, which will now allow the "testimony" of a dead person into court. This means the letter Savio left stating Drew might kill her could be allowed into court. I don't have a problem with a statement of any deceased person being brought into court if it is written in her handwriting, tape recorded, or authenticated by enough credible witnesses.

But, I do have a problem with such a statement being proof that Peterson killed her. Just because someone says another person is out to get them doesn't mean that this was the person who showed up and did the deed. It could be a new boyfriend (maybe Savio has bad taste in men), it could be a serial killer, or maybe a burglary gone bad. It could even be possible that Peterson entered Savio's home that evening with a machete in his hand, ready to lop off her head but found, Happy Day, that someone had beat him to the punch.

So, now I am only left with confession. A pastor said that Wife Number Four, Stacy Peterson, confided that Drew admitted killing Kathleen. Is this the telephone game? Is this good enough to convict Peterson without solid supporting evidence? Not in my opinion. To me, the only evidence that should convict Peterson and the only evidence I think would be good enough for probable cause to even arrest this sorry-excuse-for-a-man would be Drew's own words. I hope someone, sometime, somewhere, was wearing a wire and Drew bragged that he killed Kathleen and got away with it. I hope.

Over the next several days, we ought to have a little light shed on what probable cause the police had to bring Peterson in. I am keeping my fingers crossed they have something more than a good theory. A good theory alone may result in a conviction, but if juries keep convicting without evidence (and sometimes oddly refusing to convict in spite of overwhelming evidence), our court system will become nothing more than a popularity contest. This scares me more than Drew Peterson getting away with murder.

While I have never been fond of this saying: "It is better to let ten guilty men go free than one innocent man be wrongly convicted" (doesn't that mean the ten guilty men go on to kill fifty more people and therefore we murdered fifty to save one?), I do object to the concept of allowing the guilty man the freedom to kill yet more people because we put the wrong guy away.

Worse yet, I would hate to see Drew Peterson laughing at us as he walks back out of jail a free man.


jigmeister said...

If Peterson is convicted, it will be the body of the victim that does it. Wasn't he the responding officer who somehow got the M.E. to skip an autopsy?

Levi said...

Good points about the Innocence Project Pat.

I heard they arrested him because the grand jury handed down an indictment.

I think they have a boat load of behavioral and circumstancial evidence (the best kind of evidence)

Remember when two of Peterson's friends secretly recorded Drew? Where he called the police "dumbasses" for thinking that Kathleen Savio's death was an accident.

He also made the statement that he should have Savio's remains cremated, and he called her a "bitch."

Now why would an innocent person wish he would have had the remains creamated if he had nothing to with her murder?

This man is going to fry.

Levi said...

jigmeister, I thought I read where Peterson and a friend of his went into her home, Peterson stayed downstairs, while his friend discovered the body...

Also, one of his friends I think (I'm not sure) was a fellow police officer was on the coroners inquest that determined Savio's death was accidental.

Can you smell corruption???

Leah said...

A Grand Jury indicted DP so the police and DA aren't responsible if the evidence is there or not. And if he has a jury trial and is conviced, they still won't be responsible.

I think something is up with that first autopsy [ruled accidental death] and the fact that two more followed and determined the cause of death as a homicide. Which doesn't mean much since a homicide could still mean it was an accident. But nobody can drown in a dry bath tub. And all that blood in her hair probably led them to believe she couldn't have fallen and received that severe of a head injury. None of that proves DP is responsible but sometimes you just have to go with your gut feeling. My grandmother use to have a saying: "Don't piss on me and tell me it's raining." That always comes to mind when I hear DP proclaim his innocence and about how Stacy left him for another man. Yeah, right!

I suppose I am in the minority because I don't care why the convict him....just that they do.

Pat Brown said...

It is not that I don't think Peterson has squirrelly behaviors, but I have been in this business long enough to realize that a guy's bizarre or even psychopathic behavior does not mean he committed the crime.

Also, even IF the manner of death is ruled a homicide, the time that elapsed may prevent anyone from being connected to that crime physically. The handling of the case was botched from the beginning but a court is not allowed (in theory) to convict somebody because the case wasn't handled right.

Peterson may have wanted his wife dead and chortle that she is dead. He may not care a bit about her getting justice if she was murdered (and he actually didn't do it). But, is there REAL evidence linking him to the crime? I have cases where the behavioral and circumstantial evidence is quite overwhelming and they didn't ever get prosecuted because of the lack of physical evidence. And when I say behavioral and circumstantial evidence I mean something like the Phil Spector case:

HIS gun
His drawer from which the gun was taken
HIS house
He said, "I think I killed someone"
He had a serious history of putting gun's in women's faces
The victim was not suicidal
The victim had her handbag on her shoulder

THIS is solid behavioral and circumstantial evidence.

That Peterson "found" the body, said nasty things, and benefited from Savio's death is NOT enough to prove he committed the crime. I hope they have more so they CAN take him down and take him down properly (and not an emotional determination by a jury who despises the defendant).

jigmeister said...

Remember Pat, it didn't happen in California. That will make a real difference in getting a conviction.

Pat Brown said...


Eh? I am not getting your point.

Levi said...

Pat, I think jigmeister's point was that California is known to let guilty people go free: O.J. Simpson, Robert Blake, Michael Jackson etc.

Anonymous said...

I do hope that somebody/something CAN wipe that smirk off this guy's face. It's nauseating.

cheryl said...

Anonymous, I think that is just Pat's point

cheryl said...

If Peterson is convicted of murder just because he's an unlikeable character, then that's not good. There are ALL kinds of grounds for an appeal.

I personally believe he's guilty as all get go. But I'd like to be sure that the state has the evidence to back up a conviction.

Grand juries can and will hand down indictments on flimsy evidence.

FleaStiff said...

>simply because the jury (and the community) doesn't like the defendant, then we are allowing our justice system to become a mockery.

It is perhaps already a mockery and we are merely allowing the press to engage in broader coverage than would otherwise take place. The Marine's widow tried in San Diego for slutting around with enhanced breasts or Ryan Ferguson doing forty years in Columbian, MO because a confessing-nutcase dreamed Ryan committed a murder are blatant examples of what a press covers but what the judiciary does on its own irrespective of that coverage.

Levi said...

I guess we should just become a socialist country and allow the government to control what information comes from the press?

Leah said...

Perhaps the best thing is to not allow everything that goes through our judicial system to be available to the public. At least until the case has been adjudicated.

Pat Brown said...

We could use a strong accountability system not dependent on appeals, but rather oversight. The public/citizens have a right to know exactly how decisions are made and cases are handled. It does not have to been in the midst of the case but certainly afterward there should be transparency. If there isn't, how can we address issues of corruption, incompetance, and error? We need to know in order to fix problems and hold people accountable for what is supposed to be work done on behalf of the citizens. Somehow "the interest of the state" seems to preclude the citizenry which is odd considering the state IS the citizenry, well, at least in a democratic republic with a constitution.

FleaStiff said...

Some countries such as New Zealand do not permit public comment on a matter that is before the courts. A reporter can not walk up to someone on the street and stick a microphone in their face and pose some question if the matter is working its way through the judicial sytem.

Although we may not live in the idealized world of a well educated populace and a responsible free press, I'll take an irresponsible free press over a muzzled press anyday!

Pat Brown said...

Canada has similar press control. I am a little concerned about the government telling the press what it can and cannot do out in the world; however, I think there is no problem with the court deciding what its participants can and cannot do. The prosecution and defense should have a gag order and not be allowed to contaminate the trial by taking the case to the media. Likewise inside the courtroom; cameras shouldn't be there. Justice shouldn't be a reality show but a serious matter handled with decorum. Proper oversight can be put in place without having the openess of the court become a Roman spectacle.

Leah said...

Well stated, Pat.

Bounty Hunter said...

I read all the comments here and generally in consensus. So with that in mind, how do you feel about Scott Peterson's conviction based upon your presentations here?

Pat Brown said...

Personally, I think there was enough to convict Scott Peterson. First of all, it was not a stranger homicide, so we can narrow down the list of suspects to almost one. That one, Scott Peterson, had a good amount of physical and circumstantial evidence linking him to the crime. Effectively, everything pointed to him and nothing pointed to anyone else.

The problem with Drew Peterson is that there is no physical evidence and relatively little circumstantial evidence other than he would benefit from her death and he knocked on her door that morning. This is WAY too little for conviction in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

"The handling of the case was botched from the beginning but a court is not allowed (in theory) to convict somebody because the case wasn't handled right."

Not even if the defendant was in a position to ensure that the case was "botched from the beginning"? One might say that he was protecting his interest by ensuring it?

An Avid Reader