Prosecutors proved Drew Peterson killed his third wife, and the ex-Bolingbrook cop’s murder conviction should stand, a state appeals court ruled Friday.
In an opinion that runs nearly 90 pages— mostly recounting testimony from Peterson’s two-month long trial in 2012—a three-judge panel of the Illinois Appellate Court unanimously ruled that the prosecution’s entirely circumstantial case was strong enough to convict Peterson of the murder of his wife, Kathleen Savio. The ruling also upholds Peterson’s 38-year sentence for first-degree murder.
The opinion written by Judge Robert L. Carter knocks down each of the five issues Peterson raised on appeal, including his contention that his lead trial attorney, Joel Brodsky, made key tactical errors and had a conflict of interest because he had hired a public relations agent to arrange a blitz of media appearances shortly after hiring on as Peterson’s lawyer.
Peterson’s lawyer, Steve Greenberg, said Friday that Peterson would either petition for a rehearing or appeal the case to the state Supreme Court.
“We’ll continue to fight on,” said Greenberg, who said he had not yet fully digested the opinion. “We gave them lots of case law supporting a reversal, and (the opinion) doesn’t talk about any of it.”
Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow said the ruling backed the years-long effort to bring Peterson to justice in Savio’s death, which had originally been ruled an accident in 2004. Glasgow had Savio’s body exhumed after Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, disappeared in 2007. The state’s attorney’s office spent years battling to introduce hearsay evidence in Peterson’s case and successfully lobbied for legislation that would allow statements Stacy Peterson made before her death alleging that her husband had killed Savio.
“This opinion is vindication of this journey we have been on since October of 2007, when Stacy disappeared,” Glasgow said Friday, noting he was limited in what he could say because Peterson is charged in a pending case with attempting to hire a hitman to take out the prosecutor.
Greenberg was one of the six attorneys on Peterson’s trial team, and Greenberg had sparred heatedly with Brodsky during the trial over whether to call divorce attorney Harry Smith as a witness.
Brodsky opted to put Smith on the stand, and Smith would testify that Stacy Peterson had talked with him splitting with her husband shortly before her disappearance. Smith said Stacy Peterson told him she knew her husband had killed Savio and asked how she could use the information as leverage in a divorce.
Greenberg had a loud argument with Brodsky in the hallway of the Will County Courthouse over whether to call Smith to the stand, but the appeals court ruled that the decision to let Smith testify was a reasonable strategy.
“Regardless of whether that strategy worked, the decision to call Smith to testify was ultimately a fully-informed decision that was made by defendant himself after considering the conflicting advice of his many attorneys on the matter,” Carter wrote in the opinion.