The Illinois Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal in the case of Drew Peterson, the former police officer who was convicted in 2012 of murder in the death of his third wife.
Lawyers for Peterson asked the high court to toss the murder conviction earlier this year, arguing he was denied a fair trial due to the use of so-called hearsay statements and other allegedly critical errors during court proceedings in Will County.
Just getting a hearing is rare: legal experts say the Illinois Supreme Court rejects 95 percent of requests.
"It's a big deal. Realistically, I would be somewhat optimistic if I was Mr. Peterson," said Richard Kling, a clinical professor of law at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law.
An Illinois appellate court in November affirmed the former Bolingbrook police officer's murder conviction and sentence in the 2004 death of Kathleen Savio, whose body was found in her suburban Chicago home's bathtub. The court upheld Peterson's 38-year sentence, meaning he won't be paroled until 2047.
Peterson's defense has argued his initial trial was full of problems and experts say it appears the Illinois Supreme Court may agree.
"They know there are serious criminal justice issues involved in this case," said IIT-Chicago Kent College of Law dean and constitutional law expert Harold Krent.
Peterson's attorney says the trial court allowed so-called hearsay statements from ex-wives that swayed the jury.
"The statements from the grave, the Kathleen Savio statements that 'if anything happens to me, Drew did it' statements of future behavior are never admissible in a case," said Drew Peterson's Defense Attorney Steve Greenberg.
The defense also argues Peterson had ineffective counsel. However, the Will County State's Attorney's office said, "The case has gone through the process on multiple fronts. We're confident we'll prevail when it's taken to the supreme court."
The justices could overturn Peterson's conviction or quash his hope for freedom.
"Defendants are not entitled to a perfect trial, they're entitled to a fair trial, so the court could say yes these things were done but we don't think it was prejudicial," Kling said.
Oral arguments are expected before the supreme court in the fall.
Peterson is scheduled to stand trial on charges he solicited an inmate to kill Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow, who prosecuted the Savio case.