Illinois Supreme Court upholds Drew Peterson conviction for murder of Kathleen Savio

Today the Illinois Supreme Court handed down their opinion on Drew Peterson’s appeal  of his 2012 murder conviction.

The court found his allegations of errors of evidence admitted to trial, ineffective counsel, conflicts of interest, and breeches of clergy privilege to be without legal merit.

States Attorney James Glasgow, himself a target of an attempt at murder-for-hire on the part Peterson, released this statement in response to the court’s decision:

Today’s ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously affirming the conviction of Drew Peterson for the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, is the ultimate vindication of my decision to pursue a prosecution that had been criticized initially by many legal professionals and those in the media.
Today’s ruling completely affirms my lawful use of relevant and probative hearsay statements against Drew Peterson at his murder trial. Peterson thought the statements and threats he made had died with Kathleen Savio and had vanished with his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson. He never anticipated that I would utilize the constitutionally sound concept of forfeiture by wrongdoing to allow Kathleen to testify from the grave against her murderer, and enable Stacy to bolster her testimony. This legal principle allows prosecutors to use relevant and probative hearsay statements at trial against defendants who kill witnesses to keep them from testifying.
The Illinois Supreme Court today not only affirmed the use of this principle as applied in the Peterson case, but it identified additional avenues that had already been laid out by the U.S. Supreme Court for prosecutors to use in future cases.
Today’s ruling is a victory for the families of Kathleen Savio and Stacy Peterson against a notorious murderer who always felt he could act outside and above the law. It also is a watershed moment for police and prosecutors battling criminals who would twist the law to serve their nefarious purposes by killing the very witnesses who would help bring them to justice.

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Has Stephen Peterson come to accept that his father is a murderer?

Yesterday the Lifetime Movie Network aired the season 2 premiere of their show, Monster in My Family, with Drew Peterson as the subject.

The somewhat exploitative show features the family members of convicted murderers telling of the struggles they face due to the nefarious actions of their loved ones and meeting with the families of victims to ask for forgiveness.

Kathleen Savio’s sister, Sue Doman (Savio), appeared in this episode as did Drew Peterson’s adult son Stephen Peterson.

It was surprising to see Stephen Peterson taking part in the show since he has eschewed interviews during the nine years or so since Stacy Peterson disappeared and his father became a household name.

It was more surprising, yet, that LMN promoted the show by saying that Stephen has now accepted that his father is a killer and that he had sat down with Kathleen’s sister in an attempt at reconciliation between the two estranged families.

Surprising, because Stephen has been taking care of Drew Peterson’s children since his father was arrested for murder in 2009, and lost his job on the Oak Brook police force when it was determined that he had interfered with an investigation when accepting guns and money from Drew in the days after Stacy’s disappearance.

Although Stephen has shied away from the publicity that his father eagerly courted and never publicly stated his stance, it has long been assumed that he supported Drew and was at best ignorant of his father’s crimes – at worst aided and abbetted them.

For years Stacy’s sister, Cassandra Cales, has stated publicly that she is not allowed to visit with her young niece and nephew because Drew has told Stephen not to allow it.

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I watched the show with some interest but came away with more questions than answers about Stephen Peterson and his relationship to his father, and to the Savio and Cales families.

The show’s host, Melissa Moore, daughter of Keith Hunter Jesperson, known in the media as the “Happy Face Killer”, first interviewed Stephen asking, “Do you think your dad killed Kathleen?”

“I’d probably say so…That’s probably the first time I ever said out loud that I think he probably did it.” He replied. He expressed disappointment in his father that he says grew over time. “I don’t think he realizes what he’s done to Stacy’s family, Kathy’s family, our friends the kids – everybody.”

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He said he didn’t agree with Stacy adopting Tom and Kris after Kathleen’s death because it erased Kathy from her sons’ birth certificates, but Drew did it anyway. Stephen thought it was done as a ploy to keep Stacy from leaving.

As for agreeing to meet with Sue Doman in a sort of Catfish type of set up, Stephen said he was willing to do it so that she and everyone else would see that he is not his father. “I would love some sort of closure for her or the kids but you know it won’t come from him (Drew).”

At the meeting Sue told Stephen that she hated Drew and had hated Stephen as well, believing him to possibly have been involved in her sister’s death. He told her that he was not and that he had thought Drew was innocent at the time of the murder.

sue-stephen

There was discussion about the rift between the two families and the fact that the Savios had been cut out of the lives of Kathleen’s sons. Stephen said he hoped that would change.

This part of the discussion struck me as odd since Thomas and Kris are now adults and living independently. They are free to now see whoever they wish and I know that Sue and Tom have been in contact on Facebook, so this isn’t really an issue that Stephen has any control over.

On the other hand Stacy’s children are still minors and living with Stephen at Drew’s home, yet there was no mention of attempting to reconcile with the Cales family or grant Cassandra the visitation that she has long been asking for.

If Stephen has truly had a change of heart and wants to do right by his father’s victims, why on earth wasn’t this addressed during the show?

I try not to be cynical but I am fearful that Stephen Peterson isn’t sincere about the change to his attitude and beliefs.

I find it interesting that the turnabout has come only after another 40-year sentence has been tacked on to Drew’s prison time, essentially convicting him for life, and after Drew finally lost his pension – the pension that Stephen was receiving to help raise Stacy’s two children.

Somehow, I can’t help but believe that this late game change of heart has come about either at the behest of or with the blessings of Drew Peterson, in hopes that public opinion of Stephen Peterson will be swayed and with it, the return of Drew’s pension.

I do think it’s wrong to punish the child for the crimes of the father but I’ll have an easier time believing in Stephen Peterson when his transformation is complete and publicly includes both the Savio and the Cales families.

Video: Oral arguments in appeal of Drew Peterson Murder conviction

Today attorneys for Drew Peterson and the State of Illinois presented their oral arguments to the Supreme Court of the state.

Law professor Harold Krent and long-time Peterson attorney Steve Greenberg argued for Peterson, while assistant attorney general Leah Bendik argued for the state.

Attorneys are hoping for an answer from the court by Spring. Here are the arguments in their entirety.

Illinois Supreme Court to hear Drew Peterson’s appeal. Former attorney intends to sue for defamation

Photo courtesy IDOC

A smiling Drew Peterson in his current mug shot

I apologize for not updating the blog last week but, unlike Drew Peterson, I was sitting by a pool in the shade of a palm tree.

On March 30 the Illinois Supreme Court announced it would hear ex-Bolingbrook cop Drew Peterson’s appeal of his 2012 conviction for killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004.

The decision came as a bit of a surprise to the legal community, as the Illinois appellate court upheld Peterson’s conviction in November, 2015, stating in their opinion that “since we have found that no errors occurred, defendant’s claim of cumulative error must be rejected.” The chances of the appeal making it to Illinois’ highest court also seemed slim because historically only 5% of petitioned cases are heard.

Peterson’s appeal is based on claims of ineffective counsel on the part of attorney, Joel Brodsky, the admission of several hearsay statements admitted under the forfeiture by wrongdoing exception, and that evidence given by Pastor Neil Schori at trial violated confidentiality.

Meanwhile, Peterson’s murder-for-hire trial is amping up for May, based on charges that he solicited an inmate to kill Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, who prosecuted the Savio case.

Peterson appeared in court on Friday for a short case management conference. Randolph County State’s Attorney Jeremy Walker announced the prosecution would tender its official discovery to the defense on that day, and the date of April 22nd was set for the next case management conference.

Reem Odeh posing with a book about the Peterson case

Reem Odeh posing with a book about the Peterson case

In a strange turn of events, former Drew Peterson attorney, Reem Odeh, is asking Cook County to order to Google to supply her with information about the origins of what she says are libelous reviews left on one of her law practice’s social media pages.

According to the petition, Odeh said she intends to sue for defamation the party or parties responsible for the posts, published in January and February 2016.

According to the Cook County Record,

The petition cited one such post, purportedly posted under the alias of “Drea Sanchez,” which called her a “horrible, lying and deceitful woman claiming to be a great lawyer” who “is an embarrassment to all members of The Bar Association.” The post further called on the Illinois Supreme Court to suspend Odeh’s legal license.

Other posts, submitted under other aliases including “Abdullah Mubarak,” “William Levi” and “Nura Galaski,” allegedly accused Odeh of having “a reputation of getting around;” of having come to court “late as usual smelling like cheap beer;” of having made “bad remarks about the Latin/Polish community;” and of never being prepared for court, among other accusations. The post from “Mubarak” also described her using the term “sharamoota,” which the petition said was a derogatory Arabic term for “prostitute.”

Odeh’s petition said the reviews “are rife with false accusations regarding (Odeh), a married woman, including allegations that (Odeh) attends court appearances under the influence of alcohol; that she is adulterous; that she lies to the court and opposing counsel …; and otherwise incompetent at her profession.

Of course I have no idea who is behind the posts but I do remember that Odeh’s break with her former law partner, Joel Brodsky, was acrimonious to say the least and that a spate of negative comments cropped up about her after she testified that Brodsky had attacked her when she left with a copy of a contract between Joel and Drew at Peterson’s pre-sentencing hearings. Brodksy’s wife, Elizabeth, was especially candid when commenting on her husband’s former law partner.

reem-revie3-nura

Whether Mrs. Brodsky still carries a grudge, or Odeh has new enemies remains to be seen. Presumably, all could be revealed if Cook County rules in her favor and Google cooperates.

Video: Drew Peterson murder conviction appeal oral arguments

Part 1: Argument for the appeal by attorney Steven Greenberg

Part 2: Argument for the appeal by attorney Harold Krent

Part 3: Argument against the appeal by assistant state’s attorney Marie Czech (1)

Part 4: Argument against the appeal by assistant state’s attorney Marie Czech (2)

Part 5: Rebuttal by attorney Steven Greenberg

Last week Drew Peterson attorneys Steve Greenberg and Harold Krent presented arguments to three Illinois appellate justices in hopes of overturning Peterson’s 2012 conviction for the murder of Kathleen Savio.

The appeal centered around a number of points – namely the admittance of hearsay statements under the forfeiture by wrongdoing exception, the question of counselor-client and lawyer-client privilege and allegations of conflict and ineffective counsel on the part of Joel Brodsky.

Last week also saw a change in date for Peterson’s murder-for-hire trial. Originally he had asked for a speedy trial and the date was set for July, but his attorney, Lucas Liefer, decided that they could not be ready by then. The trial is now set for August 28th.

Attorney Steven Greenberg who unsuccessfully defended Peterson against murder charges at trial in 2012, and is now one of his appellate lawyers, was interviewed about the oral arguments as well as Drew’s more recent murder case

Attorney Joel Brodsky, who is named in Peterson’s appeal as providing ineffective assistance and having a per se conflict of interest, replied to the charges via “The Publicity Agency”. The PR firm is run by Glenn Selig who is also named in Peterson’s appeal.

“I was amazed and shocked at the flagrant lies told, and the blatant hypocrisy demonstrated by Attorney Steve Greenberg during oral arguments before the Illinois Appellate Court on Drew Peterson’s appeal of his murder conviction. As to the accusations about my seeking publicity during the Peterson case, Steve Greenberg’s hypocrisy is beyond all bounds. The provable truth is that Attorney Steve Greenberg begged me to let him come onto the Peterson case to work for free and he wanted to do so for the publicity. He certainly did not want to work for free out of the goodness of his heart. Further, for Greenberg to complain about me seeking publicity from the Peterson case is the height of dishonesty when the provable fact is that I had to stop him from appearing on a truTV segment called “Karas v. Greenberg”, which he attempted to do during the trial! Rather than preparing for the days hearing or appearing in the courtroom during the trial, Greenberg was on truTV giving away the defense’s strategy while seeking publicity for himself. During the trial, he even used his daughter to set up his own personal media interviews. It is the height of hypocrisy for Attorney Greenberg to accuse me of wanting publicity.

Furthermore, Attorney Steve Greenberg told blatant lies during the oral argument. He stated that Drew Peterson’s media interviews were played during the trial and were used as evidence against him. Perhaps Greenberg was too busy doing the “Karas v. Greenberg” TV bits during the trial to remember, but not one video of Drew giving a media interview was ever played at trial. Not one. The only thing related to Mr. Peterson’s interviews that was used as evidence was a written transcript of three (3) questions that Drew was asked during interviews. The questions were as follows: (1) what happened to Kathy” (Drew said “I don’t know”), (2) Were you surprised that Kathy’s body was exhumed (Drew said “yes”), and (3) Were you separated at the time? (Drew said ‘yes”). Hardly evidence against Drew. This shows that Attorney Steve Greenberg lacks any credibility and engaged in gross misrepresentations and hypocrisy during his oral argument to the appellate court.”

Oral arguments presented today in appeal of Drew Peterson’s murder conviction

Drew Peterson attorneys Steve Greenberg and Harold Krent presented arguments today to three Illinois appellate justices in hopes of overturning Peterson’s 2012 conviction for the murder of Kathleen Savio.

The appeal centered around a number of points – namely the admittance of hearsay statements, the question of counselor-client privilege and allegations of ineffective counsel on the part of Joel Brodsky.

The Chicago Tribune reported that,

A three-member panel of the 3rd District Appellate Court frequently interrupted the attorneys with questions about why the rest of Peterson’s legal team did not intervene if they disagreed with Brodsky’s actions and trial strategy.

They also appeared skeptical of claims that Peterson’s rights were violated when Burmila allowed Savio’s divorce attorney, Harry Smith, to testify that Stacy Peterson had called to ask what would happen if she did not reveal her husband’s role in Savio’s death.

Greenberg and Krent argued that Smith should never have been allowed to testify, because it violated attorney-client privilege.

But Justice Daniel Schmidt appeared skeptical.

“Is the privilege designed to protect the client or the person that killed the client?” Schmidt asked. “My guess is if I’m dead, I’m not going to mind if my attorney testifies about the guy that killed me.”

Also,

Will County Assistant State’s Attorney Marie Czech argued that the media rights agreement had expired before Peterson’s 2012 trial, and said Brodsky had nothing to gain by calling a witness that could sink his client’s case.

“There is absolutely no benefit to Mr. Brodsky for losing this case,” Czech said. “Winning this case brings new clients, brings fame. Losing the case, as we’ve seen with Mr. Brodsky, brings a loss of clients, ignominy.”

She also reminded the panel that Smith was called by the defense, not the prosecution.

After the nearly hourlong argument, Justice Mary K. O’Brien said the court would take the matter under advisement and would later issue a written decision. She did not say when that decision would be released.

Pastor Neil Schori attended today’s proceedings, commenting afterward about the allegation that his testimony violated Stacy Peterson’s right to privacy he said, “The defense continues to try to make this an issue. That Stacy wanted me to be quiet makes no sense.”

Read it here: Drew Peterson’s appeal of murder conviction

ARGUMENTS

I. DREW WAS DENIED A FAIR TRIAL WHEN ATTORNEY HARRY SMITH TESTIFIED ABOUT A PRIVILEGED CONVERSATION WITH STACY THAT HAD BEEN RULED INADMISSIBLE, AND WAS HEARSAY OPINION INSINUATING DREW WAS GUILTY OF MURDER.

II. DREW’S PRINCIPAL ATTORNEY, BY SIGNING A MEDIA RIGHTS CONTRACT WHEN RETAINED, CREATED A PER SE CONFLICT.

III. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED AS A MATTER OF LAW IN ADMITTING PASTOR SCHORI’S TESTIMONY, BOTH AT THE FORFEITURE BY WRONGDOING HEARING AND AT TRIAL, IN CONTRAVENTION OF THE CLERGY PRIVILEGE DOCTRINE.

IV. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ADMITTING INTO EVIDENCE, VIA THE FORFEITURE BY WRONGDOING DOCTRINE, HEARSAY STATEMENTS THAT THE COURT HAD PREVIOUSLY FOUND UNRELIABLE.

V. THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN ADMITTING JEFFREY PACHTER’S TESTIMONY BECAUSE THE STATE FAILED TO PROVIDE PROPER NOTICE OF THE TESTIMONY UNDER RULE 404(b), WHICH WAS PREJUDICIAL PROPENSITY EVIDENCE.

VI. DREW WAS NOT PROVED GUILTY BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT

VII. THE CUMULATIVE ERRORS DENIED DEFENDANT HIS RIGHT TO A FAIR TRIAL AND CAST DOUBT UPON THE INTEGRITY OF THIS PROCEEDING.

See the comments thread for more information.