Brown: Making Drew Peterson’s lawyer squirm might not win new trial — but it sure is fun to watch
BY MARK BROWN February 19, 2013 7:46PM
Updated: March 21, 2013 6:48AM
Are you familiar with the term “reluctant witness?”
Well, they don’t get much more reluctant than Drew Peterson’s ex-defense attorney Joel Brodsky, called to the witness stand Tuesday by his former defense team colleagues to help make the argument Peterson deserves a new trial because Brodsky screwed up the case.
During a brief but theatrical trip to the stand, Brodsky gave off more I-don’t-want-to-be-here body language than a cat thrown into the middle of a dog park on a weekend morning.
He slouched sideways in the witness chair. He sighed loudly and repeatedly. He muttered under his breath to himself while shaking his head. He rolled his eyes. He closed his eyes.
And at no time did he make direct eye contact with his inquisitor, Steven Greenberg, the former colleague on the Peterson defense team with whom he has been openly engaged in a blood feud since the former Bolingbrook police office was found guilty in September of the 2004 murder of third wife Kathleen Savio.
Up until that verdict, the two lawyers had only been feuding semi-openly in what mostly appeared to be a clash of egos.
Since then, they have been trading accusations ranging from legal malpractice to mental illness.
The gist of Tuesday’s questioning was to bring out the fact that Brodsky arranged with Peterson in 2007 — before the former Bolingbrook police officer was charged — to hire a publicist to try to help arrange moneymaking ventures such as book or movie deals.
Greenberg contends this was unethical because Brodsky was in effect going into business with his client, creating a conflict of interest because deals that might help them make money wouldn’t necessarily be the best moves for his defense.
That certainly may be a valid issue for the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, but I don’t see how it entitles Peterson to a new trial.
Brodsky was such a reluctant witness that for a moment Tuesday he even declined to enter Will County Judge Edward Burmila’s courtroom when his name was called.
Brodsky had been subpoenaed to testify by Will County prosecutors, not the defense, and appeared to be caught off guard when he was suddenly summoned to the stand by Greenberg.
At first, he tried to argue with Burmila whether he should be there, before the judge forcefully reminded him of the very elementary legal principle that as a subpoenaed witness, either side was allowed to call him.
If Brodsky’s camera-hogging antics during his five years as Peterson’s lead lawyer ever rubbed you the wrong way, then you would have loved to witness this squirmy performance from the vantage point I had in the jury box.
For a while, I thought he was going to come completely unglued, but the questioning was mercifully cut short.
Greenberg didn’t even explore the matter Brodsky must have been most expecting: his decision at trial to call as a witness a divorce lawyer whose testimony backfired when he told jurors that Peterson’s now-missing fourth wife, Stacy, confided in him that Peterson had killed Savio.
Outside the courtroom, Brodsky was back to his old self, pausing to talk with reporters even as his own lawyer tried to pull him out of the media scrum, mouthing the words: “Shut the f--- up.”
Brodsky told reporters he wasn’t supposed to talk because he could be put back on the stand Wednesday, but kept talking anyway.
When asked if Greenberg had “laid a glove” on him, Brodsky said: “I don’t see how.”
He then allowed that the defense effort to win a new trial “wasn’t very impressive.”
He denied that he looked uncomfortable on the witness stand.
If the ploy works, then this could become the blueprint for all such high profile defendants in the future. Put together a large team of defense lawyers, set them against each other and if they don’t win you an acquittal in the first place, you have them blame each other in the aftermath to win a new trial.
Obviously, that can’t be allowed to happen, which is why the tactic shouldn’t prevail and probably won’t.
But it made for good courtroom theater.
“In 30 years, I’ve never seen this before,” said veteran Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow.
Once is enough.