Joliet, IL-Retired Bolingbrook police sergeant, Drew Peterson is on trial for his life for murdering his third wife. Despite paper thin evidence consisting of double hearsay a Grand Jury has returned a murder indictment.
On Friday Peterson’s attorneys argued a motion before Judge Stephen White for a change of venue over pre-trial publicity issues. Because of heavy publicity and prosecution fueled venom the public perception is that Peterson is not just a murderer but a double murderer.
Can Peterson get a fair trial? I say no jury can be found that has not already been influenced beyond repair. They may find jurors that give the right answers to questions about impartiality but the answers will be deceptive.
Judge White’s Problems:
1. Many jurors, particularly those that don’t have a life, love to get selected for high profile cases. They see opportunities for fame, fortune and perhaps even a book in their future. They will do anything including lie during Voir Dire to get picked on a juicy case such as Peterson’s.
2.Jurors are admonished to avoid any discussion or news material involving the case. Nearly 100% of jurors can be counted on to violate the orders of the court in that regard. It’s not just pillow talk at home but today’s jurors are Tweeting, Facebooking and Googleing everything because the judge can’t follow them home. They do it to be empowered and to get the “real information” the court tries to hide from them. How many people do you know could go Cold Turkey from Internet for a trial lasting from one to several months?
The only way to protect the right of Peterson to a fair trial is in addition to painstakingly questioning of the jurors is to sequester them during the trial.
I can tell you about a case in Los Angeles I covered on this blog. There was a shooting that was an act of self-defense involving two men with unusual names that never were revealed by Google searches until I published them on my blog.
The L.A. District Attorney disingenuously prosecuted the victim who shot his attacker in self-defense for aggravated assault.
The victim being prosecuted had four children, three jobs and no criminal record. The state’s star witness who they claimed during trial was the “true” victim was a nasty drunk who had convictions including hate crimes, assault. In addition he was an illegal alien.
I wrote two stories about this case and published the criminal record and immigration status of the state’s star witness. That information was ruled inadmissible at the trial.
Most or all of the jury members Googled the names of the parties and found their way to my blog. They continued to “check in” for more salacious and inadmissible details for the length of that two week trial. The jury foreman was kind enough to post a comment informing me of the acquittal the very day it happened.
I checked the ISP address of the foreman and it was identical to one that had visited my two articles on the case. I had subsequent telephone conversations with him and never revealed what transpired.
The reality was that 14 different ISP addresses were on my blog for the entire time period of the trial. The jury consisted of 12 members and two alternates. I’d say it’s a safe bet that more members of that jury beyond the foreman violated the court’s admonishment.
Judge White, you have an impossible task before you. We live in a high tech, information or for that matter a misinformation age. How do you protect the rights of a presumed innocent man to a fair trial under these conditions?
Wacha gonna do Judge?