The U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to hear a long-shot appeal by former Bolingbrook Police Sgt. Drew Peterson, who hoped to have his murder conviction overturned.
Peterson, 64, was found guilty in September 2012 of the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. A judge sentenced him to 38 years behind bars. Then, in 2016, he landed a second conviction for a murder-for-hire plot that targeted Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow. For that, Peterson got another 40 years.
As a result, Peterson is not due out of prison until May 7, 2081. He is languishing in a federal prison in Indiana.
None of that may have come to pass had his fourth wife, Stacy, not gone missing in 2007. More than a decade later, she has not been found. Nor has anyone ever been criminally charged in connection with her disappearance. Peterson is the prime suspect.
The Illinois Supreme Court declined to overturn Peterson’s murder conviction in September 2017. Peterson then reached out to the U.S. Supreme Court in June with a 38-page petition. It largely revolved around bombshell testimony delivered by divorce attorney Harry Smith.
Smith testified during Peterson’s first trial that Stacy asked him before she disappeared if she could get more money in a divorce if she threatened to tell police “how (Peterson) killed Kathy.”
The Illinois Supreme Court found that Smith did not violate attorney/client privilege because he told Stacy at the outset of the discussion that he could not represent her.
But Peterson’s defense attorney, Steve Greenberg, later compared that discussion to other hypothetical conversations people might have with an attorney — confessing a homicide to a lawyer who only handles drug cases; telling a lawyer, “I am not looking to retain counsel, but I had a few questions.”
“The Illinois court’s ruling, if left unchecked, would not protect any of these communications,” Greenberg wrote.
In an email Monday morning, Greenberg told the Sun-Times he was “disappointed” that argument didn’t generate further interest from the Supreme Court.
“I thought the issue we raised, regarding attorney-client privilege, was significant and one that should have gotten the Supreme Court’s attention,” Greenberg wrote.
Smith gave his damning trial testimony after Joel Brodsky, Peterson’s lead attorney at the time, called him to the stand. In the petition last June, Greenberg called that move “unconscionable.”
“He elicited the strongest evidence proving Mr. Peterson’s guilt during the defense case,” Greenberg wrote. “It is difficult to imagine a greater abandonment of the adversarial process than producing evidence to support the adversary’s case.”
Greenberg insisted the prosecution “did not present any physical evidence linking Peterson to Savio’s death, nor did it present a witness who placed Peterson at Savio’s home during the estimated time of her death.”
Savio’s body was found in a dry bathtub on March 1, 2004. Authorities first ruled her death an accident but later exhumed and re-examined her body before deciding her death was a homicide. Peterson was arrested for her murder in May 2009.