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Nearly a decade after former Bolingbrook, Illinois police officer Drew Peterson was convicted of murdering his wife, he is scheduled to appear back in court this month to ask a judge to vacate his sentence.
Peterson was found guilty in 2012 of killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio. Savio was killed in 2004 just weeks before she was set to appear at a divorce hearing to determine money and child custody in the on-going legal fight with Peterson, according to The Associated Press. Her body was discovered in a dry bathtub and was initially considered an accidental death, but when Peterson’s fourth wife Stacy disappeared in 2007, Savio’s case was re-examined and investigators determined she had died by homicide.
No charges have ever been filed against Peterson in connection with Stacy’s disappearance, although investigators considered him a suspect in the still open investigation.
Peterson was sentenced to 38 years behind bars for Savio’s death, but in a handwritten plea filed in October, he argued that the sentence should be vacated because of what he argued was ineffective counsel by his attorney and alleged prosecutorial misconduct and witness intimidation in his case, The Chicago Tribune reports.
After reviewing the motion, Will County Judge Edward Burmilla determined there was a “gist of a constitutional” claim and agreed to hear Peterson’s plea in court on Jan. 21.
Peterson argued in the motion that his lead attorney, Joel Brodsky, failed to provide effective counsel and threatened to remove other members of Peterson’s legal team if they disagreed with him, according to court documents obtained by the local paper.
He has alleged that Brodsky prevented him from testifying in his own defense during the trial, despite his desire to tell his side of the story. He also claimed that Brodsky had encouraged him to do media interviews that stirred national interest in his case—even inspiring a television movie—which ultimately prevented him from getting a fair trial.
Peterson argued there had been prosecutorial misconduct and objected to the use of two of the state’s star witnesses, pastor Neil Schori and attorney Harry Smith. Both men took the stand to testify about what Stacy had told them about Peterson and Savio’s death before she disappeared, but Peterson believed the conversations should have been privileged.
The Will County State’s Attorney’s Office has filed a 23-page response addressing the claims, denying any prosecutorial misconduct or witness intimidation in the case.
“This is again, a claim defendant makes in his petition without any support whatsoever,” they wrote in the motion obtained by the paper.
Prosecutors have argued that some of the claims have already been addressed by higher courts on appeals and referenced court transcripts to show that Peterson was asked if he wanted to testify on his own behalf and declined to take the stand.
Brodsky, whose law license was suspended for two years in 2019, told The Chicago Tribune that he agreed that many of the claims had already been examined by higher courts, who have ruled there was nothing improper about the trial.
“There’s nothing here,” he said of the claims.
He also denied the assertion that his legal counsel had been ineffective, local station WBBM-TV reports.
Along with the sentence for Savio’s murder, Peterson is also sentenced to serve an additional 40 years in prison after being convicted in 2016 of trying to arrange a hit on one of the prosecutors on his case.
Oxygen featured Peterson’s case in a two-hour special, “Snapped Notorious: Drew Peterson,” in 2017.
In the years since his conviction, Peterson has continued to insist he is innocent.
“I didn’t murder Kathy and I didn’t murder Stacy,” he told Chicago’s WFLD in 2019 from behind bars.
Burmilla has assigned a public defender and two investigators from the public defender’s office to assist in Peterson’s latest legal efforts.
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