Attorneys for ex-Bolingbrook cop Drew Peterson reviewing mental fitness issues

Drew Peterson, a former Bolingbrook police officer, was back in a Will County courtroom on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. Peterson made his first court appearance since filing a petition seeking to overturn his 2012 conviction for the murder of his third wife Kathleen Savio in 2004.

Attorneys for former Bolingbrook police Sgt. Drew Peterson are investigating whether there are issues as to his mental fitness as they contend with his post-conviction bid to overturn his 2012 murder conviction.

Peterson, 70, made his first court appearance at the Will County Courthouse in Joliet in likely seven years on Monday in front of Judge Dave Carlson. Peterson had long white hair, a white beard and a wore tan-colored prison uniform for his first appearance, where he did not say much other than to acknowledge Carlson’s greeting.

For more than two years, Peterson has been seeking to overturn his 2012 conviction of the 2004 first-degree murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, 40.

At the hearing, Carlson said there were potential fitness issues raised and set the case over for another court date as Peterson’s attorneys with the Will County Public Defender’s Office look into the issue further.

Peterson’s case is set for another status hearing at 9:30 a.m. March 6.

Jason Strzelecki, one of Peterson’s attorneys, said their office raised the potential fitness issue but declined to explain why as of Monday. He said Peterson will be evaluated by a psychologist.

Drew Peterson, a former Bolingbrook police officer, enters a Will County courtroom on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. Peterson made his first court appearance since filing a petition seeking to overturn his 2012 conviction for the murder of his third wife Kathleen Savio in 2004.

Peterson’s other attorney, Samantha LaRowe Kerins, said they are asking for Peterson to be evaluated to determine if a fitness issue exists.

The events that led to Peterson showing up once again in Will County began about two years ago when he filed his hand-written petition for post-conviction relief.

In the petition, Peterson said he was denied effective counsel and that his lead attorney, Joel Brodsky, did not allow him to testify on his own behalf during his 2012 jury trial.

Roughly eight months after Peterson filed his post-conviction petition, Joel Brodsky, his former attorney, gave an interview with WGN-TV in Chicago. In the interview, Brodsky said he was thinking about revealing “what happened” to Stacy Peterson, Peterson’s fourth wife.

Stacy Peterson vanished in 2007 and has never been found.

In response to the WGN-TV story, Drew Peterson’s new attorneys with the Will County Public Defender’s Office requested retired Judge Ed Burmila to impose a gag order on Brodsky. The gag order was requested so Brodsky’s statements would not jeopardize the court proceedings.

Brodsky unsuccessfully appealed Burmila’s gag order, which remains in effect to this day.

In this September 2012 file photo, Joel Brodsky (left) and Steven Greenberg, attorneys for former Bolingbrook police officer Drew Peterson, confer outside the Will County Courthouse in Joliet, during the jury deliberations in Peterson’s murder trial. Brodksy, the former lead attorney for Peterson, has filed a lawsuit claiming that Greenberg, who is still on Peterson’s legal team defamed him. The lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court says Greenberg circulated a letter accusing Brodsky of “single-handedly” losing Peterson’s trial.

Despite that gag order, Brodsky has nevertheless sent three letters to Judge Dave Carlson since last September. Carlson has sealed those letters from public view and reminded Brodsky in a court order that he was still under a gag order.

At a court hearing last September, Carlson said Brodsky’s first letter discussed “the delay of the post-conviction proceedings and [Brodsky’s] impingement on his First Amendment right based upon the gag order entered by Judge Burmila.”

Brodsky has not been willing to break the gag order.

Peterson remains incarcerated within the Illinois Department of Corrections but his exact location has been kept secret. In 2021, the Herald-News obtained a letter that revealed he was at one point locked up at Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, Indiana.