Friday, April 6, 2012

Has the Media Already Convicted Drew Peterson?

            Although the name Drew Peterson has not been as popular in the news as it was in recent years, who can forget the former Bolingbrook Police Officer who has been charged with the murder of his third wife and is suspected in the disappearance of his fourth wife?  Peterson was indicted in May 2009, for the murder of his third wife Kathleen Savio and has been locked up awaiting trial in the Will County Adult Detention Center in Joliet.  I am sure most of you can recall the media circus that trailed Peterson following the 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife Stacy.  Drew used the media attention as an opportunity to promote himself and declare his innocence in any activity related to the disappearance of his wife and in the death of his previous wife.        

            Kathleen Savio was discovered deceased in her bathtub on March 1, 2004.  The initial cause of death was declared an accidental drowning, even though the tub was dry.  The coroner’s jury who declared the death an accident included a police officer who personally knew Drew Peterson.  According to letters written by Savio and statements released by her sister, Sue Doman, Peterson had a history of abuse and at times even threatened Savio’s life.  Police were called to the couple’s home on at least five occasions to investigate domestic abuse claims.  Each time, however, the police, who were Drew’s colleagues, failed to make a proper police report (1).  This is a great example of the police culture.  Drew was protected by the “blue curtain” and his brotherhood of officers put on their blinders when it came to investigating one of their own.  Savio’s body was exhumed in 2007 and the new forensic examination concluded the cause of death was homicide.  Drew’s fourth wife, Stacy, went missing in October, 2007 and most of her friends and family believe Drew is responsible for her disappearance.  Drew claims his wife left him for another man, but Stacy’s friends and family have stated that she feared for her life.  Stacy told her friends that she could not seek help from the police because they would invoke their “code of silence” (1).  Drew Peterson was charged with the murder of Kathleen Savio and is a suspect in the disappearance of Stacy Peterson. He remains in Will County awaiting trial.

            In June, 2011 Lifetime television began production of Drew Peterson: Untouchable, which stars Rob Lowe as Drew.  The movie focuses on the death of Peterson’s third wife and disappearance of his fourth wife and it exaggerates the character of Drew as a sleek, conniving weasel.  Peterson filed a cease-and-desist act to the films production in order to halt the making of the movie.  Lifetime ignored the request and released the movie nationally on January 21, 2012.  The movie which is based on facts of the investigation may wind up poisoning the jury pool and lead to prejudice.  Peterson’s lawyer, Joel Brodsky, stated before the movie’s release, “If you want to be on the jury that hears this case, don’t watch the movie. Don’t talk to anybody who’s watched the movie” (2).  His lawyer also explained that Lifetime will be immediately sued if Peterson is found guilty, for falsely portraying him as a double murderer (2).  After the release of the movie Peterson’s team of attorneys discussed the possibility of asking the court for a change of venue once they have studied the ratings of the film within Will County (3).  A change of venue seems unlikely since the movie could have been seen in any Illinois County, or any area in the world for that matter.  Drew Peterson stated the plot of the movie was “hysterical” (4).  Joel Brodsky, added that the movie was designed purely for entertainment and that if any potential juror is swayed by the film, they should not be considered during the selection process (4).

            I am not saying Drew Peterson is innocent, but our system states that he is innocent until proven guilty.  I find it impossible for potential jurors not to be influenced by this film.  However, it is possible that Drew brought this whole ordeal upon himself by making a mockery of the system by clowning around on media outlets, such as Larry King Live and the Steve Dahl radio show.  Drew made jokes about his situation and even became engaged during his circus tour.  It is hard to feel sorry for this man, but I still feel that our society is influenced by what we see on television, even if it is a fictional portrayal of actual events.  I believe the release of the movie should have been delayed until the verdict had been read.  We can only wait and see how the trial will precede and whether or not the actions of the media will be used as part of Peterson’s defense or future appeals.  I do know one thing for sure, the trial will be larger and crazier than any three ring circus.


1 comment:

  1. It seems to me the media is already giving their opinion to the case before it even starts. I haven't really followed the case, regardless if he is guilty or not. The media needs to let the justice system do their job, not make a movie on Drew Peterson. A media circus is sure to follow once the case begins.