Plymouth Congregational Church

God for All

Hearsay Testimony – should it be allowed?

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A woman tells the TV reporter:  “My sister’s husband’s niece’s grandmother’s twin sister’s caregiver’s brother said they knew Drew Peterson killed his third wife.”  Now I know this is a silly example of hearsay evidence, and I would hate for that person to be allowed to testify.  But the value or legality of hearsay evidence is what is being considered in pre-trial hearings in the Drew Peterson case.

Drew Peterson is accused of killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio.  His fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, has been missing since 2007.  A priest has come forward saying that Stacy told him Drew confessed to her that he had indeed killed Kathleen Savio.

In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that hearsay evidence violates a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to confront the witnesses against him or her. In 2008, Illinois passed a law  – now called “the Drew Peterson law” or “Drew’s law” by the media — that allows hearsay evidence if prosecutors believe the victim was killed to prevent his or her testimony.   In Drew Peterson’s case, prosecutors must prove the he intentionally got rid of Stacy Peterson to keep her from testifying about her fears, her suspicions and what she told a priest that Drew confessed to her. 

In this particular case, there may be some value in the hearsay evidence.  But isn’t it kind of scary to think how this sort of testimony could be abused, as given in the opening example?  Steven Beckett, the director of trial advocacy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was quoted as saying, “A witness may truthfully be saying what the person said, but how do we know what the person said is true?”

Do you think hearsay evidence should be allowed in any case?


One thought on “Hearsay Testimony – should it be allowed?

  1. Sad as the circumstances of this case are we absolutely CAN’T allow this sort of travesty to occur. The responsibility for good detective work, etc falls on the police when a crime occurs. Our system of justice isn’t foolproof, but allowing “he said” second and third hand statements is wrong.

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