Peterson trial finally underway but not a “slam dunk”

The murder trial of Drew Peterson (that’s me discussing it on Fox News to the left) finally got underway in an Illinois courtroom on Tuesday with opening statements followed by the first witness’ testimony about the discovery of the body.  The prosecutor asked jurors to use their “common sense” as they hear the evidence presented in the coming days, but as a lawyer and litigation consultant, I have a cautionary note that some who’ve been waiting years to see Peterson convicted may not want to hear:p

Sure, common sense tells us that Peterson did it, yet a conviction is not a “slam dunk” for the prosecution because it’s important to keep in mind what “beyond a reasonable doubt” means in this case.  It means essentially that a juror who votes “guilty” has to be convinced

1) that there’s no reasonable (i.e. cosmic rays from space not included) way in which the victim could’ve died other than being murdered, and
2) that there’s no reasonable (i.e. space aliens not included) way anyone other than Peterson could’ve done it.
Getting 12 people to be unanimous about that is a tall order, given that a medical examiner who had access to the body back when the evidence was fresh said yes, there was another reasonable explanation, an accident.  Jurors generally prefer smoking guns and direct evidence (i.e. not hearsay) before they vote to send people away for life.  I’m predicting a hung jury at best, but I certainly wouldn’t mind being wrong in this case.  Stay tuned for updates as developments warrant in the days ahead.

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