People v. Peterson, 092117 ILSC, 120331

Docket Nº:120331
Opinion Judge:THEIS, JUSTICE.
Party Name:THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Appellee, v. DREW PETERSON, Appellant.
Judge Panel:Chief Justice Karmeier and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Kilbride, Garman, and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.
Case Date:September 21, 2017
Court:Supreme Court of Illinois

2017 IL 120331

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Appellee,

v.

DREW PETERSON, Appellant.

No. 120331

Supreme Court of Illinois

September 21, 2017

Chief Justice Karmeier and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Kilbride, Garman, and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

THEIS, JUSTICE.

¶ 1 Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Will County, defendant, Drew Peterson, was found guilty of the first degree murder of his third ex-wife, Kathleen Savio (Kathleen), and sentenced to 38 years' imprisonment. The appellate court affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence. 2015 IL App (3d) 130157. We allowed defendant's petition for leave to appeal. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm.

¶ 2 BACKGROUND

¶ 3 The appellate court opinion contains a detailed recitation of the evidence adduced at trial (id. ¶¶ 2-172), and defendant does not challenge the sufficiency of such evidence. Accordingly, we provide only a summary of the events leading to defendant's arrest and prosecution and an overview of the State's evidence. Additional facts will be set forth in the analysis section as necessary for resolution of the issues raised in this appeal.

¶ 4 Defendant and Kathleen were married on May 3, 1992. During the marriage, the couple had two sons. The Peterson family lived in Bolingbrook, Illinois, where defendant was employed as a police officer. In early 2002, defendant and Kathleen each filed a petition for dissolution of marriage; the cases were consolidated. Kathleen was awarded temporary custody of the couple's sons and exclusive possession of the marital home. In a bifurcated dissolution proceeding, the marriage was dissolved on October 10, 2003, with child custody, child support, maintenance, and division of property to be determined at a hearing scheduled for April 6, 2004.

¶ 5 On Sunday evening, February 29, 2004, defendant attempted to return his sons to Kathleen after the boys' weekend visitation, but Kathleen could not be reached. The following evening defendant, with the assistance of a locksmith and along with four of Kathleen's neighbors, entered Kathleen's home. Kathleen's body was discovered in the bathtub. The Illinois State Police conducted the death investigation. An autopsy performed by Dr. Bryan Mitchell with the Will County Coroner's office determined that the cause of death was drowning. A coroner's inquest later determined that the manner of death was accidental.

¶ 6 Following Kathleen's death, a final judgment was entered in the couple's bifurcated divorce. Defendant was awarded sole custody of his two sons, and remaining financial issues were resolved in defendant's favor.

¶ 7 At the time of Kathleen's death, defendant was married to Stacy Cales. The couple, along with their infant son, lived in a home in Bolingbrook not far from Kathleen's residence. During defendant's marriage to Stacy, the couple had another child, a girl.

¶ 8 On October 28, 2007, Stacy's sister, Cassandra Cales, reported to police that Stacy was missing. Defendant denied that Stacy was missing and told investigators that Stacy had left because they were having marital problems. Soon thereafter, Kathleen's body was exhumed. At the request of the Will County State's Attorney, a forensic pathologist, Dr. Larry Blum, performed an autopsy on November 13, 2007. Dr. Blum concluded that the manner of death was homicide. At the request of the Savio family, Dr. Michael Baden, a forensic pathologist, performed an autopsy on November 16, 2007. He, too, concluded that the manner of death was homicide.

¶ 9 In May 2009, a grand jury entered a two-count indictment against defendant for the first degree murder of Kathleen. See 720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 2004). During the seven-week jury trial that began in July 2012, the State presented evidence that numerous bruises and abrasions on Kathleen's body and a laceration to her scalp were consistent with a struggle and inconsistent with an accidental fall in the bathtub. The State also presented evidence that defendant had threatened Kathleen on several occasions, stating that he could kill her and make it look like an accident and that defendant had accessed Kathleen's home after he moved out and after Kathleen had changed the locks. Additionally, a witness for the prosecution testified that four months prior to her death, defendant had offered him $25, 000 to help find a man to "take care of his third wife." Finally, the State presented evidence that, on the night of Kathleen's death, Stacy observed defendant, who had been absent from their home overnight, dressed in black and placing women's clothes that were not hers into the washing machine and that defendant coached Stacy on what to say to police when she was interviewed following the discovery of Kathleen's body.

¶ 10 The jury found defendant guilty, and the trial court subsequently sentenced defendant to 38 years' imprisonment. On direct review, the appellate court affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence. 2015 IL App (3d) 130157, ¶ 229. We allowed defendant's petition for leave to appeal. Ill. S.Ct. R. 315 (eff. Jan. 1, 2015).

¶ 11 Defendant urges this court to reverse the judgment of the appellate court and remand for a new trial, arguing that (1) certain hearsay statements were improperly admitted at trial under the forfeiture by wrongdoing doctrine, (2) counsel rendered ineffective assistance when he called attorney Harry Smith as a witness at trial, (3) Smith's testimony should have been barred under the attorney-client privilege, (4) counsel was operating under a per se conflict of interest, (5) evidence of prior bad acts was improperly admitted at trial, and (6) cumulative error denied him a fair trial. We consider each argument in turn.

¶ 12 ANALYSIS

¶ 13 I. Admission of Hearsay Statements Under the Forfeiture by Wrongdoing Doctrine

¶ 14 Defendant first argues that certain hearsay statements were improperly admitted at trial under the forfeiture by wrongdoing doctrine and that such error requires this court to reverse his conviction and remand for a new trial. The State concedes that if the hearsay statements were admitted in error, such error was not harmless.

¶ 15 Resolution of defendant's argument requires this court to consider two principal issues: (1) whether, under separation of powers principles, the common-law doctrine of forfeiture by wrongdoing adopted by this court, rather than the forfeiture rule adopted by the legislature, governed the admission of the hearsay statements and (2) whether the State met its burden of proof at the pretrial forfeiture hearing for admission of the hearsay statements at trial. For a complete understanding of these issues, we first provide additional background and analysis as to how these issues arose and were treated by the courts below, as well as an overview of the relevant statute and the common-law doctrine of forfeiture by wrongdoing.

¶ 16 Prior to trial, the State filed a motion seeking the admission of hearsay statements made by Kathleen and Stacy. In its motion, the State identified several statements allegedly made by Kathleen to family members and others regarding threats defendant made to her in which he stated that he could kill her and make it look like an accident, she should just die, and she would not make it to the divorce settlement. The State further sought admission of a letter from Kathleen to the Will County State's Attorney's office, as well as Kathleen's handwritten statement provided to police, recounting a July 5, 2002, incident in which defendant allegedly entered Kathleen's home without permission, pinned her to the stairs for over three hours while he reviewed their history, and threatened her with a knife. As to Stacy, the State generally sought admission of statements she made to others regarding defendant's conduct on the night of Kathleen's death.

¶ 17 Ordinarily, the rule against hearsay would prohibit the introduction at trial of such out-of-court statements that are offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. People v. Williams, 238 Ill.2d 125, 143 (2010); Ill. Rs. Evid. 801, 802 (eff. Jan. 1, 2011); see also Novicki v. Department of Finance, 373 Ill. 342, 344 (1940) (rule against hearsay provides that "a witness may testify only as to facts within his personal knowledge and not as to what somebody else told him"). The State, however, sought admission of these statements pursuant to section 115-10.6 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (Code), a legislatively created exception to the hearsay rule. 725 ILCS 5/115-10.6 (West 2008). The General Assembly has since repealed section 115-10.6 (see Pub. Act 99-243, § 5 (eff. Aug. 3, 2015)), but at the time defendant was tried, the statute provided as follows: "Hearsay exception for intentional murder of a witness.

(a) A statement is not rendered inadmissible by the hearsay rule if it is offered against a party that has killed the declarant in violation of clauses (a)(1) and (a)(2) of Section 9-1 of the Criminal Code of 1961 intending to procure the unavailability of the declarant as a witness in a criminal or civil proceeding.1

(b)While intent to procure the unavailability of the witness is a necessary element for the introduction of the statements, it need not be the sole motivation behind the murder which procured the unavailability of the declarant as a witness.

(c)The murder of the declarant may, but need not, be the subject of the trial at which the statement is being offered. If the murder of the declarant is not the subject of the trial at which the statement is being offered, the murder need not have ever been prosecuted.

(d)The proponent of the statements shall give the adverse party reasonable written notice of its...

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