Drew Peterson, the former Chicago area police sergeant who was convicted in 2012 of the murder of his third wife, is expected to return to court this month after a judge agreed to hear his petition in annulment of the verdict.
Will County Judge Edward Burmilla scheduled the Jan. 21 hearing after finding a “gist of a constitutional claim” in Peterson’s six-page handwritten petition, according to the Chicago Tribune. Burmilla assigned Peterson a public defender and two investigators from the Public Defender’s Office.
Peterson, from the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook, is serving a 38-year prison sentence for the 2004 murder of Kathleen Savio. He will serve that additional 40-year sentence after being convicted in 2016 of conspiring to kill the prosecutor. who put him behind bars.
Savio’s body was found in a dry tub in 2004, weeks before a hearing scheduled to determine money and child custody issues related to his divorce from Peterson. Her death was initially considered an accident, but her remains were exhumed after the 2007 disappearance of Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy. Savio’s death was subsequently considered a homicide.
Stacy Peterson is presumed dead, although her body has never been found. Drew Peterson is a suspect in her disappearance, but has never been charged.
In his petition filed in October, Peterson argues that his senior lawyer, Joel Brodsky, failed to provide effective advice. Peterson maintains that Brodsky threatened other attorneys to withdraw from the case if they disagreed with him, and that he wanted to testify in his own defense, but Brodsky would not allow it. Peterson also alleges misconduct by the Crown and intimidation of witnesses.
Further, he argues that two key witnesses who were allowed to testify under state hearsay law should not have been allowed to testify. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in a 2017 unanimous decision that hearsay testimony from Savio and Stacy Peterson did not violate Drew Peterson’s constitutional right to confront his accusers because of evidence that killed them to prevent their testimony.
The Will County State Attorney’s Office said in a 23-page written response that Peterson’s allegations were unfounded and denied any witness misconduct or intimidation.
Prosecutors pointed out that the state’s top courts, including the Supreme Court, have ruled against Peterson and provided court transcripts in which he told the judge he chose not to testify but did not never mentioned that Brodsky had prevented him from testifying.
Brodsky agreed that Peterson’s claims were or could have been raised in previous appeals and that higher courts have already ruled that there was nothing improper about the lawsuit.
“There is nothing here,” said Brodsky, whose law degree was suspended for two years in 2019.