Monday, May 18, 2009

Drew Peterson: A View From Two Perspectives

by Robin Sax

Part 1: "The Prosecutor's Perspective"
(Tomorrow, The Violence Expert, Susan Murphy Milano, in Part 2)

What a great relief it was to all justice seekers to see that the grand jury finally handed down an indictment against Drew Peterson. You heard it here first; there is no way that this case will settle. Drew Peterson is probably one of the most narcissistic (self loving persons) out there. He will never take responsibility for the years of domestic abuse against all of his wives, the abuse of power by using his police knowledge and power to murder at least one and probably two of his wives, and the child abuse; for not only killing his children’s mother but also for subjecting his children to the lies and cover-up that have become the symbol of this case since the onset. Drew Peterson is incapable of accepting responsibility and a trial will give him the opportunity to do what he loves best—to be in front of a camera and to talk, talk, talk.

So, what are we likely to see as his defense? In the words of
Joel Brodsky on the Today Show, “This is a weak, circumstantial case at best.” All I have to say is SO WHAT? Most cases are proved by circumstantial evidence.

In order to understand what a big nothing relying on circumstantial evidence is, you must attend my short class on evidence. So, welcome, here we go. Basically everything presented to a jury is considered evidence, except for the statements and questions from the lawyers. The testimony of fact witnesses and the opinions of expert witne
sses are evidence. Documents are evidence. Physical objects, like murder weapons, are evidence. Tape recordings, police reports, and photos are all evidence. Just about everything submitted to the jury that proves or disproves the charges against the defendant is evidence. Before we take a look at the rule of evidence, for a good review of the state of the evidence in this case, I highly recommend taking a peak at the Justice Café Blog which has followed the key pieces of evidence, history, and key people in this of Drew Peterson.

Now back to our lesson. In law evidence that is not drawn from direct observation of a fact can be drawn from events or circumstances that surround it. If a witness arrives at a crime scene seconds after hearing a gunshot to find someone standing over a corpse and holding a smoking pistol, the evidence is circumstantial, since the person may merely be a bystander who picked up the weapon after the killer dropped it. The popular notion that one cannot be convicted on circumstantial evidence is false. Most criminal convictions are based, at least in part, on circumstantial evidence that sufficiently links criminal and crime.

Circumstantial evidence is the bread and butter of criminal trials. Many circumstances can create inferences about the defendant’s guilt in a criminal case, including the defendant’ statements to police, statements made publicly (i.e. statements made in a television interviews, press conferences, newspaper articles, etc.) inconsistencies of any above statements, the presence of a motive or opportunity to commit the crime; the defendant’s presence at the time and place of the crime or at the discovery of the crime; any denials, evasions, or contradictions on the part of the accused; and the general conduct of the accused, other prior bad acts including history of domestic violence, character evidence, etc. In addition, much scientific evidence is circumstantial, because it requires a jury to make a connection between the circumstance and the fact in issue. For example, with fingerprint evidence, a jury must make a connection between this evidence that the accused handled some object tied to the crime and the commission of the crime itself.

There will be circumstantial
evidence against him and Drew Peterson will try VERY hard to get jurors to buy into the theory (which books, movies, and television perpetuate) that somehow circumstantial evidence is not as good or may not be used to convict a criminal of a crime. But this view is FLAT OUT WRONG. In most cases, circumstantial evidence is the only evidence linking an accused to a crime; direct evidence may simply not exist. As a result, the jury may have only circumstantial evidence to consider in determining whether to convict or acquit a person charged with a crime. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has stated that “circumstantial evidence is intrinsically no different from testimonial [direct] evidence” (Holland v. United States, 348 U.S. 121, 75 S. Ct. 127, 99 L. Ed. 150 [1954]). In other words, the distinction between direct and circumstantial evidence has little practical effect in the presentation or admissibility of evidence in trials.

And if y
ou don’t believe me that circumstantial evidence is used all the time and brings about convictions, I direct you to some of the more newsworthy cases where convictions were based largely on circumstantial evidence: Scott Peterson, Timothy McVeigh, Phil Spector, Michael Skakel, David Westerfield – the list goes on.

Perhaps no one says it better than Norman Garland, professor of Law and
author of several books including Criminal Law for the Law Enforcement Professional, “...Circumstantial evidence is nothing more than what we live by on a daily basis as a matter of common sense.” And my common sense says Drew Peterson is guilty as hell.


Burl Barer said...

I would think that a trained law enforcement officer would be more adept at getting away with murder. Then again, he wasn't exactly exemplary in his chosen profession either. There is an "art" to finessing a homicide crime scene to make it misleading. Brent Turvey has written extensivly on this topic. Peterson, if responsible for this woman's death, apparently also isn't well read.

LadySheila said...

Amen Robin Sax! Nobody could have said it better...would love to see you in the courtroom!

Jan C, said...

Sometimes even the "smart" ones get caught. However, our prisons aren't filled with rocket scientists.

I hope the truth will come out during trial. Thanks for your take on this, Robin.

A Voice of Sanity said...

There are many errors in your post. One of the most egregious is the claim that that Scott Peterson was convicted because of circumstantial evidence. He was not. He was convicted despite the CE, all of which proved his innocence. He was convicted by public prejudice and hysterical media 'attention', resulting in pressures which made it impossible for him to receive a fair trial with an impartial jury, a result predicted by the judge in one of his lucid moments.

Many of the items you reference in these cases actually prove innocence and not guilt. They prove it because they are not determinative of guilt. A man lying about an adulterous affair is not determinative of guilt because almost all men will do the same under these circumstances. When the prosecution has to rely on such nonsense it proves innocence because it show how weak their case is. After all, all murderers have, at some time, eaten mashed potatoes. If a prosecutor triumphs the fact that the accused has eaten mashed potatoes as proof of guilt that then is, in fact, not proof of guilt, but the reverse.

Levi said...

A Voice of Sanity, do you have a crush on Scott Peterson? Whatever the murder case, you always mention Peterson.

The evidence against that dirt bag was solid. He told Amber Frey on the phone that his wife died. And a week later his wife died!

He told his sister Ann Bird while his wife is missing, that his favorite movie was "The Shining." The Shining is a movie about a man that tries to kill his wife and child. Scott Peterson was suspected of killing your wife and child.

A normal husband wouldn't be talking about a movie where a man tries to kill his wife and child, when his wife and child were MURDERED and he is suspected.

Also, during the vigil's for his missing wife, he wasn't concerned in locating her, he was on the phone with that bimbo Amber Frey. He wasn't concerned about locating his wife, because he knew where the body was at, because he killed her.

GPS that law enforcement put on his truck showed that he had driven past the location where he dumped the bodies many times.

Let's also not forget how he died his hair blonde, took survival gear and headed SOUTH OF THE BORDER.

The guy killed her... It is as clear as day.

A Voice of Sanity said...

Levi said...A Voice of Sanity, do you have a crush on Scott Peterson? Whatever the murder case, you always mention Peterson. . .

No, the original post claimed he was convicted by CE. He was not. I merely pointed out the error.

Further, you are a perfect example of what is wrong with the legal system. Your comments are either completely wrong or idiotically irrelevant. No matter, for example. which movie he had selected as his favorite, by some inane and distorted 'reasoning' you would claim you could deduce guilt from his choice. And so it goes with each and every one of your silly points.

The plain fact is that Laci Peterson lived well past Dec 24th and was killed sometime between Feb 20th and March 15th (both approximate). This eliminates him from any involvement.

Why do you hate him so much? Why don't you hate, for example, Gilbert Cano? Do you only hate people when your TV set tells you to? Why?

dcheryl83 said...

"The plain fact is that Laci Peterson lived well past Dec 24th and was killed sometime between Feb 20th and March 15th (both approximate). "

Where did this information come from? I didn't follow the trial, I had enough of the whole media blitz by the time the trial started. Just curious where these facts came from.

A Voice of Sanity said...

From the testimony of the state's own witnesses, Dr Galloway and Dr B Peterson amongst others. See the first 2 pages ("The Evidence" and "The prosecutor's case?") of for a summary (quick read).

Levi said...

I followed the trial everyday and that is complete BS.

A Voice of Sanity said...

Clearly you didn't 'follow' the trial since you are incapable of arguing any point of it.

jaemi levine said...

Great job Robin as always. Drew Peterson is a monster as is scott. To you voice of sanity you sound insane to me.