Paganism Out Of The Picture (For Now)

The case of Robert Petrick, on trial for the murder of his wife Janine Sutphen has had his request granted that any information regarding his religious beliefs be left out of evidence.

“Petrick asked that evidence about his reported involvement in paganism, witchcraft and the Wiccan religion be excluded from the murder trial. He described Wicca as “a form of neo-pagan worship. It’s recognized by the U.S. government.” Petrick predicted that such evidence would merely turn jurors against him. “I can’t see any relevance to whether I killed my wife,” he said. Garrell promised he would not “just gratuitously bring up these matters.” But he argued that Petrick met certain witnesses through religious activities. He said the court should not “censor” testimony about those meetings.”

Despite granting the request, the judge made it clear that the issue can be revisited later in the trial. The media is now following up on the Pagan angle and is digging into one of the witnesses, Phaedra Bonewits, longtime CUUPs organizer and wife of Isaac Bonewits.

“…one of the prosecution’s scheduled witnesses is Phaedra Oorbeck Bonewits, a purported pagan who once lived with Petrick and another man in Granville, Ill. The three were known as believers in neo-paganism, the modern adaptation of an ancient religion that reveres nature and worships multiple gods. Bonewits, then known as Phaedra Oorbeck, has been a trustee of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans and has published a book on witchcraft for the 21st century.”

It remains to be seen how the media and the court will handle the Pagan religion of Petrick, Bonewits, and other possible witnesses. If it does become a part of the trial will the jury be able to seperate the alleged actions of Petrick from the at times sensationalist attitude the media takes towards modern Paganism?

Jason Pitzl-Waters

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