Request for new trial brings more drama to Drew Peterson defense team
By Janet Lundquist Sun-Times Media October 10, 2012 4:32PM
Updated: November 12, 2012 11:59AM
Attorney John Paul Carroll doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him or his work in court.
“When I go into court, nobody laughs,” he said. “The greatest compliment I ever got was from a state’s attorney who said, ‘When Carroll’s involved, you have to pay attention.’ ”
Carroll, of Naperville, was called in to consult with convicted wife killer Drew Peterson regarding issues with Peterson’s police pension.
But Tuesday, Carroll and his partner, Michelle Gonzalez, filed a motion for a new trial based on Peterson’s claims that his lead attorney, Joel Brodsky, provided ineffective counsel.
The motion was prepared after Peterson asked to meet with Carroll and Gonzalez, Carroll said, and Will County Circuit Court Judge Edward Burmila approved a face-to-face meeting at the county jail.
“I think Mr. Brodsky fooled pretty much himself” when he thought he could handle a murder trial, Carroll said.
The motion lists 14 reasons why Peterson believes Brodsky failed to adequately defend Peterson — including lying to his client, encouraging Peterson to generate as much publicity as possible, preventing Peterson from hiring more lawyers and calling attorney Harry Smith as a defense witness when Peterson did not want him to.
After convicting Peterson, a former Bolingbrook police sergeant, Sept. 6 of killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in March 2004, some jurors cited Smith’s hearsay testimony regarding Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy, as key in persuading them of Peterson’s guilt.
Asked about the motion Tuesday night, Brodsky said it was “absolute insanity,” and “bizarre beyond belief.” Brodsky reiterated that view Wednesday.
“For example, it says I never tried a felony jury. I tried my first felony jury trial 18 years ago,” Brodsky said. “... That just goes to show you how absolutely and positively, without any basis at all, his motion is.”
Brodsky said he talked Wednesday with Peterson, who told him he did not want Carroll to file the motion. Carroll disputed that.
“You can believe whatever Brodsky says, I frankly don’t care,” he said. “I’m doing whatever I think I should do for my client.”
Carroll knows what it’s like to be accused of providing ineffective assistance. In 2008, he represented two brothers from Aurora in a Kane County murder trial. Jaime and Edgar Castro were convicted of the 2007 murder of Julio Gurrola in May 2008. A month later, Carroll admitted that he did not tell the brothers about a plea deal from prosecutors until after they were convicted.
A judge allowed the brothers to consider the plea deal instead of going through a new trial. They took the deal, pleading guilty to armed violence with a 15-year sentence.
A complaint was filed against Carroll with the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. After a hearing in October 2011, the commission recommended to the state Supreme Court that Carroll be suspended for three months, according to commission records.
Carroll appealed that recommendation, and a hearing on the appeal was held in September, commission spokesman Jim Grogan said. He said it could take two to four months for a ruling on the appeal. Until then, Carroll can still practice law.
“I was helping my clients too much,” Carroll said. “It’s a little different than if I stole some of their money (or) had sex with their mother.”
When Peterson was charged in 2009 with Savio’s murder, Carroll was expected to join the team.
Carroll said he didn’t because Brodsky wanted complete control of the case. Brodsky said Carroll was excluded because of the state disciplinary case.
“Carroll has been trying to get into this case for years now,” Brodsky said. “He’s just obsessed.”
The motion Carroll filed has created uncertainty about what happens next in Peterson’s case.
It has “created a situation where all the attorneys become witnesses and quite possibly will be all off the case,” said Joseph “Shark” Lopez, a member of Peterson’s defense team. He believes none of Peterson’s defense team can proceed with post-trial motions now that the allegation of ineffective counsel exists.
“The court definitely has to intercede in the case and make a determination as to who the attorneys are going to be,” Lopez said.
That could include the judge asking Peterson directly whom he wants to have as his lawyers, which could happen as soon as a court hearing Friday, according to Lopez.
“It’s awkward, and at this point it’s more harmful than good,” he said. “We have to focus on the sentencing issues, not on what happened at trial.”
Peterson, 58, is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 26.