If no new trial for Peterson, he might be sentenced today
BY DAN ROZEK, JON SEIDEL AND JANET LUNDQUIST Staff Reporters February 20, 2013 10:34AM
Drew Peterson was convicted of killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio. | Police photo
Updated: March 22, 2013 10:27AM
Drew Peterson’s lawyers argued Wednesday that Joel Brodsky, their former lead co-counsel, made “awful” decisions and ran their legal team like a dictatorship.
Whether Brodsky’s alleged steamrolling of his fellow lawyers and other alleged trial errors were so egregious that Peterson deserves a new trial is up to Will County Judge Edward Burmila. He said he’ll announce his decision Thursday afternoon.
If he shoots down Peterson’s request — as most legal experts expect — he has told attorneys on both sides to be prepared for sentencing. Peterson, 59, a former Bolingbrook cop, was found guilty last summer of the 2004 murder of Kathleen Savio, his third wife. He faces up to 60 years in prison.
Peterson’s remaining attorneys pulled no punches Wednesday in their last-ditch bid to win a do-over from Burmila. Defense lawyer Steve Greenberg said Brodsky orchestrated an unprecedented pretrial media blitz and used Peterson as a pawn to further his own career.
He said Brodsky didn’t simply put the most damning witness against Peterson on the stand during the trial. He said Brodsky reinforced former Savio divorce attorney Harry Smith’s damaging testimony by asking repeated questions.
Smith told the jury that Drew Peterson’s now-missing fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, told him that Drew Peterson had killed Savio. After they convicted Peterson for Savio’s drowning death, many jurors pointed to Smith’s testimony as key to their decision.
“Harry Smith’s testimony was probably the most incriminating piece of evidence that was brought out against Mr. Peterson,” Greenberg said Wednesday. “And it was brought out by the defense.”
Brodsky dismissed as “delusions” the claims that he dominated Peterson’s legal team, and he insisted that Greenberg and other attorneys had agreed to call Harry Smith as a witness.
“Harry was the consensus opinion of all the attorneys,” Brodsky said outside the courtroom, contending he had been made a scapegoat for Peterson’s conviction.
“Drew got a good defense,” Brodsky said.
Prosecutors said the decision to call Smith to the stand — whether made unilaterally by Brodsky or jointly with his co-counsel — was a strategic decision that can’t be challenged.
Peterson first fell under broad suspicion for Savio’s death after Stacy Peterson disappeared in 2007. Her sister, Cassandra Cales, agreed with Brodsky on Wednesday that all members of Peterson’s defense team were responsible for the conviction.
Cales expects Peterson to get the maximum sentence because he was a police officer.
“Even if he gets the minimum 20 years,” Cales said, “that’s technically life for him, because he’s an old man.”