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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Tuesday: Illinois Supreme Court to hear arguments in Drew Peterson’s appeal of murder conviction

Drew Peterson arrested

Oral arguments in Drew Peterson’s appeal of his 2012 conviction for the murder of Kathleen Savio are scheduled to be heard tomorrow, November 15, at 9:30 in Springfield.

I expect Steve Greenberg (and possibly law professor Harold Krent) will be arguing for Peterson, while assistant attorneys general Michael Glick and Leah Bendik will most likely be arguing for the state.

If you’ve been following this case since it was first appealed, a lot of it is going to be familiar ground; with hearsay, conflict of interest, ineffective counsel, and attorney-client privileges being some of the points of contention.

If you want to get up to speed on the appeal in advance of tomorrow’s proceedings, then fire up those reading glasses, pop a Tylenol and power through the legal briefs filed by both the appellant and appellee teams:

BTW, Stacy Peterson has now been missing for nine years. Her sister, Cassandra Cales, recently went to Facebook to state that if Stacy’s remains are found she will sue for them. She says she is still denied access to her niece and nephew who are in the custody of their half-brother, Stephen Peterson. Peterson was fired from his position as a law enforcement officer in Oak Park, after it was determined that he accepted guns and money from his father during the investigation of Stacy’s disappearance in 2007.

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.

Three of Drew Peterson’s old attorneys return to his defense – Joel Brodsky calls them a pathological narcissist, an alcoholic, and a novice

The Chicago Tribune reports that attorneys Steve Greenberg, John Heiderscheidt and David Peilet have been rehired to try to overturn Drew Peterson’s murder conviction for the killing of his ex-wife, Kathleen Savio.

The three lawyers turned his appellate case over to the state defender’s office last March but Peterson has now decided he wants the help of his old team. attorney Steve Greenberg says,

After the case was over, he needed to think about what he wanted to do. We needed to let things calm down before making those decisions.

The appeal, which is expected to be filed within the next 90 days, will be based on the admission of hearsay, the admission of testimony by Stacy Peterson’s pastor, a jury pool left in limbo for over two years and the ineffective counsel of Peterson’s lead attorney, Joel Brodsky. Brodsky responded to the news last night in an acerbic Tweet:

joel-comment

The Tribune reports that Peterson is biding his time at Menard Correctional Center, in protective custody. He has no cellmate and no job there. He gets five hours of recreation time each week and is allowed to see visitors twice a month.

Since his sentencing, Peterson’s yearly police pension of almost $80k has been challenged by Bolingbrook Village officials. It may take months before the outside attorney hired by the pension board makes a recommendation.

Read more at the Chicago Tribune

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

another new mugLast Tuesday marked four years since Drew Peterson was arrested and charged with the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. So, what has transpired since then?

Trial Status

Today: Jury selection for Drew Peterson’s trial began on July 23, 2012. Opening statements began on July 31st and the first witness was also called that day. Testimony continued through August 30. Closing arguments were heard on September 4 and jury deliberations began. On September 6, after two days and 14 hours of deliberations, the jury found Drew Peterson guilty in the first degree of murdering Kathleen Savio. On February 21st Drew Peterson was sentenced to 38 years in prison, minus the four years he spent in jail awaiting trial. Peterson was moved from the Will County Adult Detention Center, where he had been living since his arrest, to Stateville Prison and then was transferred shortly thereafter to Pontiac Prison and then Menard Correctional Facility. The City of Bolingbrook is reviewing the status of Peterson’s $79,000/year pension to see if it can be revoked.

Legal Representation

Today: Immediately after Peterson’s murder conviction, his defense team began to publicly point fingers and blame each other for losing the case. Paving the way for an appeal based on ineffective assistance of counsel, Joel Brodsky first got in Drew’s ear and was able to get Steven Greenberg fired from the defense team. But by October, Greenberg had spoken to Drew and was back on the team. Soon after, a team of three attorneys who had not represented Peterson in the murder trial filed a motion of ineffective assistance against Joel Brodsky. After much public and private name calling, letter writing, and motion filingJoel Brodsky withdrew from Peterson’s defense. He then filed a defamation suit against Steve Greenberg, two media outlets and specific reporters. Attorney David Peilet of Clarendon Hills and John Heiderscheidt joined the defense team. At a post-sentencing hearing, Judge Edward Burmila said that he was “shocked” at comments Brodsky had made on TV regarding his representation of Drew Peterson and had a transcript of the hearing sent to the ARDC. In March of 2013, the rest of Peterson’s defense team announced that they were stepping aside and turning over the appellate phase of Peterson’s defense to the state public defender’s office.

One year ago: In September, Attorney Walter Maksym was asked to “step aside” from the legal team after he was criticized by the federal appeals court for filing “unintelligible” court papers that were “riddled with errors”. As the case neared trial, it was announced that Atty Joe Lopez would be presenting closing arguments.

Two years ago: After months of rumors of arguing and even a physical incident, Reem Odeh left the partnership and withdrew from the Peterson defense team in September 2010. In February of 2011, 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.

Three years ago: Andrew Abood and George Lenard withdrew from the case in April of 2010, citing irreconcilable differences with Joel Brodsky. John Paul Carroll had a complaint filed against him in September and appears to have left the case. Attorneys from Brodsky & Odeh, Steven A. Greenberg and Associates, Law Offices of Meczyk Goldberg, Joseph R. Lopez, P.C., and Walter P. Maksym Jr. then made up the “Seven Samurai” representing Peterson in court.

Four years ago: Brodsky & Odeh, Abood Law, and John Paul Carroll represented Drew Peterson. George D. Lenard joined the case in December of 2009.

Media Exposure

Today: Drew Peterson was able to address the court and the public with a statement at his sentencing hearing. Rather than expressing remorse, he shouted out “I did not kill Kathleen” and then issued a long self-pitying rant.

One year ago: The Sun-Times continued to shill for Peterson. On April 17 they featured a sympathetic story and cover photo of Drew Peterson after the state won their appeal to get more evidence admitted to his trial for murder.

Two years ago: Despite the gag order prohibiting interviews, Peterson spent 2011 writing letters and statements that were provided to the media, in particular to gossip columnist for the Chicago Sun Times, Michael Sneed.

Three years ago: Drew was prohibited from giving interviews to the press.

Four 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.

Judges

Today: Judge Burmila presided over Peterson’s trial and sentencing.

One year ago: On May 4, 2012, Judge Edward Burmilla was assigned to the case.

Two years ago: Judge Stephen White retired in October 2010.

Three years ago: Judge Stephen White presided over the case.

Four 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.

Hearsay Evidence

Today: The defense continued to file motions to bar as  much of the hearsay evidence as possible leading up to Peterson’s trial. They were also able to challenge each piece of hearsay evidence as it was introduced at trial and were able to keep out more in that way. At trial Kathleen Savio’s sisters and some friends were allowed to testify to statements she had made to them about fearing Drew Peterson would kill her. Pastor Neil Schori was only allowed to testify to what Stacy had told him alone. The discussions he had with Drew and Stacy in their home were deemed inadmissible. Scott Rossetto’s testimony was also deemed unreliable after the prosecution made some errors with the dates and he didn’t get to take the stand. Although the defense had fought to keep out the testimony of Attorney Harry Smith, whom Stacy Peterson had called with questions about a possible divorce, eventually it was Joel Brodsky who called him to the stand in an attempt to impeach Stacy’s words to Neil Schori. Smith testified that Stacy had asked if she could get more money out of Drew if she threatened to tell “how” he had killed Kathleen Savio. Many believe this to be the evidence that cinched the conviction. A final breakdown of witnesses shows that more than 85% of the evidence presented at Drew Peterson’s trial was physical, forensic and circumstantial. Less than 15% was hearsay. Although media reports were quick to cite “Drew’s Law” as being a factor in the introduction of hearsay to Peterson’s trial, those reports were erroneous as the state had earlier asked the appellate court to reconsider Judge White’s hearsay rulings under the common law rules of forfeiture and they agreed.

One year ago: After the appellate court did not reconsider the barred hearsay statements due to a missed deadline, the State appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court which decided that the appellate court should consider the evidence on its merits. In April the appellate court reversed Judge White’s decision and decided that the hearsay statements were reliable and admissible in court. Peterson’s defense announced that they would not appeal and wanted instead to go to trial.

Two years ago: 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”).

Three years 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.

Four years ago: The Hearsay Statue (Drew;s Law) was passed into legislation November, 2008

Peterson Family

Today: In November 2007, a Federal judge threw out Stephen Peterson’s lawsuit against the Village of Oakbrook and Thomas Sheahan. Peterson then went back to Illinois Circuit court to try to get back his job, but lost that complaint in March of 2013.
Kathleen Savio’s two sons, Thomas and Kristopher are in college. Thomas Peterson testified on his father’s behalf towards the end of his trial.

One year ago: Stephen Peterson was appealing his dismissal and filed a Federal lawsuit in July 2011.

Two years ago: 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 and appealed his dismissal.  Thomas Peterson 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.

Four years ago: Drew’s four youngest children were left in the care of their step-brother, Oak Brook Police Officer, Stephen Peterson.

Savio Family

Today: Sue Savio has continued to make appearances to speak out about her sister and against domestic violence. Anna Savio Doman and Henry Savio are still pursuing a wrongful death suit against Drew Peterson.

Cales Family

Today: Cassandra Cales continues to search for her sister.

Drew’s Love Life

Today: Drew Peterson continues to enjoy correspondence with numerous pen pals.

One year ago: Gossip columnist Michael Sneed reported that Peterson had over 20 pen pals (male and female), at least four of whom contributed to his funds at the commissary so that he could enjoy snacks while he awaited trial.

Two years ago: 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 2011, 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.

Three years 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”

Four 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.

Stunts

Today: All quiet on the part of Drew Peterson. His legal team seems to have picked up the torch as far as media shenanigans. Restaurateur Jeff Ruby attended Drew Peterson’s trial and was charged with contempt when he reportedly mouthed “Fuck you” at Peterson. Ruby went on to offer a $100,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of Stacy Peterson’s remains.

One year ago: Besides frequent mundane snippets in the gossip columns about Peterson’s life in prison, all has been quiet.

Two years ago: While Drew’s bids for attention were mostly curtailed due to his detention, his lawyer and PR people continued 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. Kathleen’s oldest son, Tom, was the subject of news stories and wrote his own letters to the press in support of his father.

Three years 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.

Four years ago: At the time 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.

Stacy Peterson

Today: Areas of Hammel Woods in Shorewood were searched for five days in November 2012, utilizing the FBI and cadaver dogs. Some officials stated that it was a training mission, while others told the press that they were indeed looking for the remains of Stacy Peterson. Nothing was found.

One year ago: Airings of the movie, “Drew Peterson: Untouchable” brought about some new tips and offers of assistance in regards to the search for Stacy Peterson.

Two years ago: In August 2010, based on a tip, searches for Stacy’s remains took place near Peoria. No evidence was found.

Three years ago: Still missing with no sightings or communication from her.

Four years ago: Missing. No communication from her since October 28, 2007. Searches were ongoing.

Joel Brodsky booted from case after clashes with yet another attorney

The Chicago Tribune reports that Joel Brodsky and his opposing counsel, Michael Meschino, were both dismissed from a Cook County civil case by Judge Raymond Mitchell.

Joel Brodsky was representing Fahred Salem, Mariam Salem and Jrough Al-Daoud in a civil case against Rabi Nesheiwat and George Nesheiwat. After months of open animosity both in and out of court, the Judge filed an opinion and order booting the two lawyers as a last resort to ensure all parties’ right to a fair trial.

Besides relatively tame allegations of name calling by both lawyers – including “little man”, “fat”, “bald”, and “short” as well as the Brodsky favorites, “moron” and “liar” – there were allegations of physical threats and Mr. Meschino had to be escorted from the courtroom more than once by deputies.

Joel Brodsky filed a motion on Tuesday in which he claimed that Attorney Meschino was obsessed with Brodsky’s role in the high-profile Drew Peterson murder case, and recommended that Meschino undergo a mental evaluation.

In Joel Brodsky’s pending defamation suit filed in February, he makes similar assertions of mental illness about ex co-counsel, Steven Greenberg.

In the motion Judge Mitchell says that Brodsky committed “outright attorney misconduct” by sending two letters complaining about Meschino to a chief judge without copying either Meschino or himself. Copies of the letters were attached to his filing.

As for Meschino, he complained rather comically that Joel Brodsky was:

…constantly shaking his head, his bald head, so that the light is shining on me.

A copy of the Judge Mitchell’s order citing “deplorable behavior” has been sent to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.

Last month Judge Edward Burmila chastised Brodsky for statements he made during televised interviews immediately following the sentencing of Drew Peterson. At that time he ordered that a transcript of the day’s proceedings be sent to the Commission.

Earlier this month, Joel Brodsky, distributed a press release to announce his inclusion to the “Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyers in the United States” by The National Trial Lawyers Organization. A little digging reveals that Brodsky has actually been added to the list of Top 100 Trial Lawyers for the state of Illinois – a distinction shared by at least 300 Illinois lawyers (that I counted).

According to the organization’s online FAQ, after being offered an invitation an attorney must pay up front for the honor of inclusion to their list and then cough up yearly dues in order to remain listed. They must also pay additional dues in order to be listed by area of expertise.

I wonder if he’ll get a refund if he ends up being disciplined by the ARDC…

Drew Peterson hearing today: No reduced sentence, Brodsky to face the music with ARDC

This morning Drew Peterson was taken on a six-hour drive to attend a hearing before Judge Edward Burmila.

The judge denied a motion to reduce Peterson’s 38-year prison sentence to 20 years. He still must serve out the remaining 34 years of the sentence (subtracting the four years he spent in detainment before trial).

Judge Burmila also denied a motion that would keep Peterson’s former attorney, Joel Brodsky, from talking publicly about the case and allegedly violating attorney-client privilege. However he did indicate that he felt Brodsky had decided poorly when making the media rounds after Peterson’s sentencing and asked the clerk to send a transcript of Tuesday’s hearing and the motion that prompted it to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. Judge Burmila told the court:

I wish I could think of a word beyond, ‘shocked,’ that I could apply to Mr. Brodsky’s appearance on television.

He was referring to this appearance that Joel Brodsky made on WGN news the morning of February 22 in which he explained his decision to put a controversial witness on the stand and defended his approach to publicity.

According to Joel Brodsky, the Illinois rules of professional conduct allow him to defend himself against allegations of misconduct, and that is what he was doing in that interview and others.

Read more at the Herald-News

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