Vaughn murders: Finger-pointing former Peterson attorney unsuccessful in bid for mistrial


In a last-ditch effort to reverse Christopher Vaughn’s murder conviction prior to sentencing, ex-Peterson attorney George Lenard filed a motion on Monday listing 51 reasons why his client deserves a new trial. Among those claims was one that the publicity-seeking media antics of Drew Peterson’s defense team had contributed to the jury’s decision to convict Vaughn of murdering his family.

Christopher Vaughn’s trial took place in a neighboring court room at the Will County Courthouse and was partially concurrent to Peterson’s. Lenard’s motion claimed that jurors were exposed to a press conference in which Peterson’s lawyers appeared to mock his missing and deceased wives. The motion posited that the disgust this engendered influenced their feelings about defense attorneys in general, and caused the jury to become biased against Vaughn and his defense.

However, on Tuesday Judge Daniel Rozak denied the motion, saying there is no evidence that jurors were even aware of the other attorneys’ news conferences. Vaughn was sentenced to serve four life sentences for the murder of his family.

Never media-shy, the Peterson team rallied to the cry and responded to reporters and via Twitter to lambaste the efforts of the lawyer who had once represented Drew Peterson.

Steven Greenberg, who was criticized by co-counsel Joel Brodsky after Drew Peterson’s guilty verdict, and briefly fired only to be brought back into the defense fold, joked on Twitter that once again it was not his fault.

Joe Lopez, who replaced George Lenard on the Peterson defense in 2010 after Lenard withdrew citing irreconcilable differences with co-counsel Joel Brodsky, was particularly jovial and compared Lenard’s claim to that of the famous Twinkie Defense (which, although highly criticised, was successful).

Present Peterson team member Steve Greenberg and Joel Brodsky, who withdrew last month and is being accused of providing Peterson with ineffective assistance of counsel, stated that it was just another example of blaming the already highly criticized team.

Joel Brodsky: “I guess if it rains tomorrow, it’s my fault.

Meanwhile, the Peterson defense has been attempting to reverse their own client’s conviction on the grounds of some dubious claims. Already there have been two motions filed asking for a new trial on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel by Peterson’s long-time attorney Joel Brodsky. He’s being accused of being more motivated by media exposure and book deals than in successfully defending his client and of erroneously calling to the stand an adverse witness who gave testimony putting Drew Peterson at the scene of his wife’s murder.

The state has until January tenth to respond to the defense motions.

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Two years since Drew Peterson’s arrest for murder. What has changed?

Two years ago, Drew Peterson was arrested and charged with the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. Since that day he has resided at the the Will County Adult Detention Facility in Joliet awaiting his trial which is on hold indefinately, while we await a decision by the appellate court on whether or not they will overturn Judge White’s decision on what hearsay testimony can be admitted. We’ve continued to follow the case this last year. So, what has changed since May 7, 2009?

Legal Representation

Two years ago: Brodsky & Odeh, Abood Law, and John Paul Carroll represented Drew Peterson. George D. Lenard joined the case in December of 2009.
One year ago: Andrew Abood and George Lenard withdrew from the case in April of this year, citing irreconcilable differences with Joel Brodsky. John Paul Carroll had a complaint filed against him in September and appears to have left the case. Presently, attorneys from Brodsky & Odeh, Steven A. Greenberg and Associates, Law Offices of Meczyk Goldberg, Joseph R. Lopez, P.C., and Walter P. Maksym Jr. made up the “Seven Samurai” representing Peterson in court.
Today: After months of rumors of arguing and even a physical incident at the law offices of Brodsky & Odeh, Reem Odeh left the partnership and withdrew from the Peterson defense team in September. In February of this year, Lisa Lopez, wife of Joe Lopez, assisted with the oral arguments regarding the hearsay decision before the Appellate court, which were presented by Steven Greenberg.

Media Exposure

Two years ago: Drew’s last interview was given over the phone to a WLS radio show host, Eric Mancow Muller, from jail on May 27, 2009. He also gave one other in-jail phone interview on May 15, to Matt Lauer of the Today show.
One year ago: Drew was prohibited from giving interviews to the press.
Today: Despite the gag order prohibiting interviews, Peterson has spent the year writing letters and statements that have been provided to the media, in particular to gossip columnist for the Chicago Sun Times, Michael Sneed.

Judges

Two years ago: Judge Richard Schoenstedt was first assigned to the case; then Judge Carla Alessio-Policandriotes and finally Judge Stephen White. Will County Chief Judge Gerald Kinney made the new appointments. Judge Daniel J. Rozak set Peterson’s bond.
One year ago: Judge Stephen White presided over the case.
Today: Judge Stephen White retired in October 2010. There is presently no judge assigned to the Kathleen Savio murder case.

Hearsay Evidence

Two years ago: The Hearsay Statue was passed into legislation November, 2008
One year ago: In October 2009, Peterson’s defense lost a motion to declare the act unconstitutional. Hearsay evidence and witnesses were heard during hearings in January 2010.
Today: The judge’s decision regarding the hearsay statements was leaked in July 2010, revealing that possibly fewer than five of the 15 statements being considered were to be allowed. This decision was appealed by the prosecution. During February oral arguments before the appellate justices, States Attorney Jim Glasgow was asked what he now wanted to “hang” his argument on. Glasgow said that he chose “804 (b)” or, in other words the common law doctrine that is part of the Illinois Rules of Evidence (rather than the so-called “Hearsay Law”). We are presently waiting on the opinion of the appellate justices.

Peterson family

Two years ago: Drew’s four youngest children were left in the care of their step-brother, Oak Brook Police Officer, Stephen Peterson.
Today : In August 2009, Stephen Peterson was suspended for accepting and hiding weapons for his father, shortly after the disappearance of Stacy Peterson. In February 2010, Peterson was fired from Oak Brook Police Force. He is presently appealing his dismissal. Son, Thomas, wrote a letter and made a filing asking to be removed from the Savio family’s civil suit against Drew Peterson. This has not been granted yet. Tom Peterson was chosen as valedictorian of his graduating class.

Drew’s Love Life

Two years ago: Christina Raines was at the house that Drew and Stacy Peterson shared at the time or his arrest and was also taken into custody. She removed her belongings from his home shortly afterwards. Raines is on the list to visit Drew in jail.
One year ago: In January Raines posted a status update on her Facebook page stating, “I met someone who i fell in love with and very happy with. I think i just about gave up on drew with all his lies i dont even really visit him anymore.” and then, “But his kids i love dearly and still visit with them they are good kids”
Today: In August 2010 we heard that Christina Raines was engaged to a new man. In February 2011 we obtained a photo of Chrissy with her fiancé. In April, an old acquaintance of Drew’s, Diana Grandel, released some letters from Drew in which he made sexual comments to her and offered Stacy’s clothing to her.

Illegal weapons charge

Today: After numerous appeals from both prosecution and the defense, weapons charges against Drew Peterson were dismissed in October 2010.

Stunts

Two years ago:When Drew was arrested, he was preparing to fly out to the Bunny Ranch Brothel in Reno, Nevada, to see if he would be a good fit as head of security there.
One year ago: Soon after Drew’s arrest he attempted to have his motorcycle auctioned off on eBay. He was asking for $50,000 and offered to apply a decal with his signature on the bike. eBay removed the auction for violation of its “murderabilia” rules.
Today: While Drew’s bids for attention have been mostly curtailed due to his detention, his lawyer and PR people continue to pepper the news with updates and letters from him detailing everything from his life in jail to his opinions about the legal decisions regarding his children. More recently Kathleen’s oldest son, Tom, has been the subject of news stories and has written his own letters to the press in support of his father.

Stacy Peterson

Two years ago: Missing. No communication from her since October 28, 2007. Searches were ongoing.
One year ago: Still missing with no sightings or communication from her.
Today: In August 2010, based on a tip, searches for Stacy’s remains took place near Peoria. No evidence was found.

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Is Drew Peterson’s “hot” attorney hot under the collar?

Reem Odeh, former co-counsel Andrew Abood and George Lenard, and Joel Brodsky leave the Will County Courthouse.

Drew Peterson has seen a fair amount of rotation in his legal team roster as of late. In April, Andrew Abood and George Lenard, walked away from the case citing “irreconcilable differences” with lead attorney Joel Brodsky. Although four more attorneys have been recently added to the defense, only Brodsky’s partner, Reem Odeh, is left from the original triad. But from what we hear, the attorney most regarded as “the hot one” might be more aptly described these days as “hot under the collar”.

A source tells us that yesterday after the defense’s motion to have Judge Stephen White removed from Peterson’s case was denied, Odeh was overheard outside the courtroom venting to a former co-counselor about a move that may have irritated the Judge. “Way to go.” she was heard to utter sarcastically. Visibly annoyed, she expressed her frustration that rather than being taken seriously she has to endure constant remarks about her attire and appearance by co-counsel. She then left the premises for the day.

This would appear to be a repeat performance for the model-turned-attorney, who during the hearsay hearings was also seen storming out of court after arguing with Joel Brodsky.

Although other Peterson defense team members have become familiar faces due to their many media appearances, Reem Odeh has stayed in the background since taking on the case. Despite being praised by Joel Brodsky as being “an essential part of the team,” he is the one who traveled with Drew and sat at his side for numerous interviews.

In January 2009 Odeh was marketed in an embarrassingly patronizing press release, entitled “Drew Peterson Attorney Not Just a Pretty Face.” The release stated, “Reem Odeh wants the public to know that beyond her stunning good looks is a hard-nosed attorney who is detail-oriented and brings keen analytical skills to Team Peterson.” Sounds like something that might need to be circulated amid Peterson’s “Seven Samurai” rather than to the public.

A year earlier, Odeh was quoted in the Chicago Tribune disagreeing with the way her co-counsel was allowing their high-profile client to speak to the press, saying, “I don’t think it’s appropriate. I think it is in the client’s best interest to keep it quiet and focus on the case. But he just says the case is going to make us famous and we’re all going to get book deals.” Joel Brodsky later stated that she was misquoted, although Ms. Odeh herself did not say so.

Will there be a samurai recount in the future? Stay tuned…

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One year since Drew Peterson’s arrest for murder. What has changed?

Drew Peterson as a free man, and in different company on the day of his arrest, May 7, 2009

One year ago, Drew Peterson was arrested and charged with the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. Since that day he has resided at the the Will County Adult Detention Facility in Joliet awaiting his trial which is scheduled to begin next month. We’ve continued to follow the case as the year has passed, but what has changed since May 7, 2009?

Legal Representation

A year ago: Brodsky & Odeh, Abood Law, and John Paul Carroll represented Drew Peterson. George D. Lenard joined the case in December of 2009.
Today: Andrew Abood and George Lenard withdrew from the case in April of this year, citing irreconcilable differences with Joel Brodsky. John Paul Carroll had a complaint filed against him in September and appears to have left the case. Presently, attorneys from Brodsky & Odeh, Steven A. Greenberg and Associates, Law Offices of Meczyk Goldberg, Joseph R. Lopez, P.C., and Walter P. Maksym Jr. make up the “Seven Samurai” representing Peterson in court.

Media Exposure

A year ago: When Drew was arrested, he was preparing to fly out to the Bunny Ranch Brothel in Reno, Nevada, to see if he would be a good fit as head of security there. Drew’s last interview was given over the phone to a WLS radio show host, Eric Mancow Muller, from jail on May 27, 2009. He also gave one other in-jail phone interview on May 15, to Matt Lauer of the Today show.
Today: Drew is presently not allowed to give interviews to the press.

Judges

A year ago: Judge Richard Schoenstedt was first assigned to the case; then Judge Carla Alessio-Policandriotes and finally Judge Stephen White. Will County Chief Judge Gerald Kinney made the new appointments. Judge Daniel J. Rozak set Peterson’s bond.
Today: Judge Stephen White presides over the case but is expected to retire in October of this year.

Public Act 095-1004 – The so-called “Hearsay law”

A year ago: The Act was passed into legislation November, 2008
Today: In October 2009, Peterson’s defense lost a motion to declare the act unconstitutional

$20 Million Bail

A year ago: After Peterson’s bail was set at $20 million, the defense filed a motion to reduce it on May 22, 2009.
Today: In June, the Appellate Court denied the petition to reduce Peterson’s $20 million bond.

Change of Venue

A year ago: In July 2009, Drew Peterson’s attorneys filed a motion seeking a change of venue for their client.
Today: The request was denied and 240 potential jurors for the murder trial were brought into Will County court and asked to complete questionnaires
Continue reading

Joe “The Shark” Lopez mock trial arguments: a preview of coming attractions?

Last May, at the Chicago-Kent College of Law, WGN Radio’s Legally Speaking presented a mock trial of the closing arguments in the prosecution of Drew Peterson for the death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio.

Attorney Karen Conti presented closing arguments for the prosecution; while attorney Joseph Lopez argued for the defense of Peterson. The case was presided over by retired Judge Richard E. Neville.

At the time State’s Attorney James Glasgow took Chicago-Kent College of Law and WGN to task for staging the proceedings, calling it an “abhorrent” event, but since then Joe Lopez has been officially hired on to Peterson’s “Dream Team” in replacement of Andrew Abood. The State may now be interested in what Lopez had to say during what could very well be a preview of coming attractions.

As for Lopez, he’s coming on board having missed out on two year’s worth of pre-trial history, including a historic hearing of hearsay testimony. But he’s not worried about arriving late to the team. He says “It doesn’t matter. This case is not that complicated…This is an accident that happened to this lady. We just have to leave it at that.”

PART I


PART II

PART III

PART IV

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Drew Peterson defense team breaks up: Irreconcilable differences…with Joel Brodsky

Yesterday, attorney Andrew Abood was a guest on the Roe Conn and Richard Roeper show on WLS AM 890.  Abood discussed his motion to withdraw from the defense team of Drew Peterson in the murder of Kathleen Savio, and blamed irreconcilable differences with lead counsel, Joel Brodsky, as the cause of the rupture.

After the interview, Joel Brodsky called in to the show and refuted Abood’s explanation, citing differences in defense strategy as the reason for Andrew Abood and co-counsel, George Lenard, parting ways with the case.

Here is what they had to say. You can decide for yourself whose account is the accurate one.

Andrew Abood, Part 1

Andrew Abood, Part 2

Joel Brodsky, Part 1

Joel Brodsky, Part 2

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Andrew Abood and George Lenard speak out about withdrawal from Peterson defense

We emailed attorneys Andrew Abood of Abood Law and and George Lenard and asked them if they wanted to comment on today’s motion to withdraw from the defense team of Drew Peterson. We specifically asked about the mention in Christy Gutowski’s story for the Daily Herald of a suicide defense. This was Mr. Abood’s reply:

Andrew P. Abood

I will assume that your source is Joel Brodsky.

It is inappropriate to disclose attorney client information including privileged information regarding trial strategy. I will not comment on myself, but I will say the George Lenard was extremely well prepared, had deep and thorough understanding of the facts and law and great knowledge of Will County juries as he has have over 150 jury trials. Over 7 times more than Joel Brodsky. He is recognized by many (including Judges and State’s attorneys) in Will County as one of the top defense lawyers in the County. His reputation for integrity and ethics is unmatched.

Any theory George Lenard promoted was based on the facts and law and well reasoned.

One could say that it was a trial lawyers dream to be involved in a case like this, and it was the type of case that was a perfect fit for an attorney with George Lenard’s skills and intellect. Anyone who witnessed the crosses of Pachter, Morphey or Mims witnessed some great and thorough examinations.

More importantly, the disagreements among defense counsel rested more with personalities and less with any particular position or issue related to issues to be fought inside the courtroom. It is not unusual when 3 attorneys are representing a single client to have differences of opinions. And it can be difficult when an attorney believes (right or wrong) that those differences are resolved without giving deference to those attorneys that had sound judgment, experience and skill as opposed to some other factors. When an attorney believes (right or wrong) that it is being done on charges of this magnitude it is a sign to exit.

I am grateful to have served as co counsel with George Lenard. His common sense, wisdom and advice is so sound that when tough decisions have to be made, he makes it easy to make the right decision. And although the emotional part of any attorney who has invested the time and effort that we put in says: “stay in the case”; the objective part said: “it was time to go.” And it was a decision that once made and the Motion filed, a huge burden had been lifted and I knew personally and professionally that I had made the right choice.

It should also be noted that the residence of Will County are well served by a number of extremely hard working dedicated public servants. Those in the state’s attorney office; those working for Judge White (including Judge White) and his court and the entire Courthouse personnel.

I should say that it was a pleasure working for and representing a client who was so grateful for the services we provided. Although we as lawyers often times work very hard for a two word verdict — “not guilty” — sometimes we also appreciate two other words “thank you”. And it is always easier and more inspiring to work for a client that uses that latter two words (thank you). It was easy and inspiring to work for Drew Peterson.

Finally I wish Joe Lopez the best of luck. He apparently has a great reputation and displayed a certain amount of courage entering a case on such short notice. I am sure he will do a great job and I hope that he obtains a fair and just verdict for his client — one that is two words and not one.

***UPDATE – 04/15/2010***

I just had a chance to read this story today. One of Christine Gutowski’s sources is Joel Brodsky. She also published the article about when the Hearsay decision would be issued — predicting based on “sources” that it would be issued that week — her source according to her for that statement about when the Hearsay decision would be published according to her was Joel Brodsky. She was inaccurate then and this story is inaccurate as well.

George Lenard was also kind enough to respond with his comments about withdrawing from the defense:

George D. Lenard

I appreciate the opportunity to respond to the events that occurred leading up to yesterday. Any comments regarding the inner workings of the case would be inappropriate because as you know it is covered by the attorney-client privilege.

As I said, it is unfortunate that it had to come to this, but Andrew Abood any myself felt there were no other alternatives.

It was a great experience working with both Andrew and Drew. Andrew Abood is an outstanding attorney with unwavering ethics and I welcome any opportunity to work with him again in the future. Drew was a great client to work for and I wish him the best of luck in his trial.


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