What’s new on ex-Bolingbrook cop Drew Peterson and his legal fight

Peterson scheduled to be back in court Friday

It’s been more than two years since former Bolingbrook police Sgt. Drew Peterson petitioned to overturn his 2012 conviction of murdering his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004, and there’s been no ruling yet from a judge.

During that time, Peterson’s case switched to another judge. His former lawyer, Joel Brodsky, was prohibited from talking about his representation of his former client after he suggested to WGN-TV in Chicago that he would reveal information about Peterson.

However, there remains no decision yet on Peterson’s Oct. 19, 2021, handwritten petition for post-conviction relief that mostly contends he was provided ineffective counsel by Brodsky. Peterson’s conviction in Savio’s murder was upheld by Third Appellate Court in Ottawa in 2015 and the Illinois Supreme Court in 2017.

Peterson has not appeared for the 22 hearings that have been recorded in the court docket since he filed his petition. His whereabouts within the Illinois Department of Corrections are also not publicly known. He was last known in 2021 to be incarcerated at Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, Indiana.

Peterson’s new attorneys with the Will County Public Defender’s Office repeatedly have said they are working through the discovery in his case and plan to file an amended petition for post-conviction relief. Most recently, they’ve announced they’re seeking an expert to develop constitutional issues.

Peterson’s next court hearing is slated for Friday.

FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Illinois Department of Corrections shows former Bolingbrook, Ill., police officer Drew Peterson. Peterson's murder-for-hire trial in southern Illinois was postponed by a Randolph County judge Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015, until early next year. Peterson is charged with soliciting an inmate to kill Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow, who prosecuted the 2012 case in which Peterson was sentenced to 38 years in prison for the bathtub drowning death of ex-wife Kathleen Savio.  (Illinois Department of Corrections via AP, File)

New experts for Peterson?

Because Peterson’s petition was not dismissed outright by retired Judge Ed Burmila, who presided over Peterson’s 2012 trial, the petition has advanced to what is called the second stage, according to Illinois Legal Aid.

In this stage, the prosecutors enter the case and file a motion to dismiss Peterson’s petition. If his petition reaches the third and last stage, there is an evidentiary hearing on his claims.

At the last court hearing on Oct. 26, Peterson’s attorneys told Will County Judge Dave Carlson that they are seeking experts in the case.

Carlson asked them about the relevance for an expert at the second stage. Jason Strzelecki, one of Peterson’s attorneys, said the “relevance would be formulating constitutional issues,” according to court transcripts.

“We do need to do some research in technical matters before these go forward and goes to the issues towards the amended petition,” Strzelecki said.

Will County Assistant State’s Attorney Jon Walters said the discovery in the case is voluminous, with “almost a hundred boxes of discovery.”

Judge Dave Carlson speaks at a hearing of Joseph Czuba at the Will County Courthouse on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023 in Joliet. Joseph Czuba, 71, was arraigned on charges of first-degree murder of 6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume and and attempting to kill his mother, Hanaan Shahin, 32, on Oct. 14 at a Plainfield Township residence.

For his part, Carlson told the attorneys that he’s become familiar with the post-conviction process with the Cook County cases that he’s been dealing with. He said there is a “real emphasis placed on a speedy determination.”

Carlson has been handling post-conviction cases involving allegations of misconduct by former Chicago police Detective Kriston Kato, after the Cook County judiciary recused themselves from those cases, according to a 2021 article from the Chicago Sun-Times.

Gag order for ex-Peterson lawyer

In addition to Peterson’s petition on his conviction, there is also the separate matter of Peterson’s former attorney appealing a gag order.

After Peterson filed his post-conviction petition, Brodsky claimed to WGN-TV in Chicago that he was going to reveal “what happened” to Stacy Peterson, Drew Peterson’s fourth wife, who vanished in 2007.

At the request of Peterson’s attorneys, Burmila entered a gag order against Brodsky on May 19, 2022, and that remains in effect.

Despite that gag order, Brodsky wrote a letter to Carlson that the judge placed under seal, although the mailing package was still publicly viewable in the court docket. U.S. postal records indicate the letter was delivered on Sept. 5.

At a Sept. 7 court hearing, Carlson decided to open the letter, despite objections from both parties, and read his summary of the letter into the public record, according to court transcripts.

Carlson said Brodsky’s letter “discuss 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.”

“And he believes that the process should be speeded up. And I understand that. I think he made an interesting position on that,” Carlson said.

Carlson then placed the letter under seal again.