JOLIET, Ill. (AP) -- Drew Peterson, the former Illinois police officer who gained notoriety after his much-younger wife vanished in 2007, was convicted Thursday of murdering a previous wife in a case centered on secondhand hearsay statements from both women.
Peterson, 58, sat stoically looking straight ahead and did not react as the judge announced jurors had found him guilty of first-degree murder in the death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. Her relatives gasped, then hugged each other as they cried quietly.
Illinois has no death penalty, and Peterson now faces a maximum 60-year prison term when sentenced Nov. 26.
The trial was the first of its kind in Illinois history, with prosecutors building their case largely on hearsay thanks to a new law, dubbed "Drew's Law," tailored to Peterson's case. That hearsay, prosecutors had said, would let his third and fourth wives "speak from their graves" through family and friends to convict Peterson.
Hearsay is any information reported by a witness that is not based on the witness' direct knowledge. Defense attorneys said its use at the trial would be central to their appeal.
Savio's family members were emotional as they left the courtroom. Her sister, Susan Dorman, threw herself into the arms of her husband, Mitch Dorman.
"Finally, finally, finally. ... We finally got that murdering bastard," Savio's brother-in-law, Mitch Dorman, said.
This is one area where the Supreme Court's rewrite of Confrontation Clause jurisprudence in Crawford v. Washington may actually work to the benefit of the prosecution. It's hard to see the statements in question being "testimonial" within the meaning of Crawford. If a statement is not "testimonial," its admissibility becomes just a matter of state evidence law.