Drew Peterson to Appear in Court

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(Photo credit: Will County Sheriff's Office/MGN)

By the CNN Wire Staff

Former police sergeant Drew Peterson will be in an Illinois courtroom Friday for a hearing for his upcoming murder trial, court officials said.

Peterson is accused of killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004 and remains under investigation in the October 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson.

This hearing comes after a monumental decision was made earlier this year in the widely followed murder case.

In April, an Illinois appellate court ruled that prosecutors can use potentially incriminating statements made by Savio and Peterson’s still-missing fourth wife against him.

That ruling overturned an earlier judge’s decision that forbid prosecutors from using eight statements made by Savio before her death and by Stacy Peterson before her disappearance.

When Savio was found dead in 2004, her death was ruled accidental.

In October 2007, after Drew Peterson’s fourth wife Stacy went missing, he became the focus of a police investigation. Authorities exhumed Savio’s body and conducted a second autopsy, this time ruling her death a homicide.

Since Savio is dead and Stacy Peterson is missing, the defense has argued that using their alleged statements to family and friends violates Peterson’s Sixth Amendment right to confront the witnesses against him.

In general, hearsay statements made to third parties cannot be introduced at trial unless a defendant can cross-examine the person who made them. There are some exceptions if prosecutors can prove the statement is reliable. But a new Illinois law, which some call “Drew’s Law,” goes beyond those exceptions.

The law, passed while investigators were looking for Stacy Peterson in 2008, allows courts to consider statements from “unavailable witnesses,” provided prosecutors can prove the witness was killed to prevent his or her testimony.

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