Defense pushes for Drew Peterson to be released

Associated Press
Updated 8/30/2011 4:14 PM
  • Drew Peterson

    Drew Peterson

Drew Peterson's attorneys have asked the Illinois State Supreme Court to order the former police officer released from jail where he's been held for more than two years on charges of murdering his third wife, saying prosecutors' appeal to the same court over hearsay evidence has violated his right to a speedy trial.

"It's a matter of fundamental fairness," said the 57-year-old Peterson's lead attorney Joel Brodsky, who said he mailed the appeal to the court on Monday night.

Peterson, a retired Bolingbrook police sergeant, has been in jail since 2009. His trial in the drowning death of ex-wife Kathleen Savio, originally scheduled to begin in July of last year, has been on hold since prosecutors appealed a judge's decision to bar them from presenting statements Savio allegedly made about him before her body was discovered in a dry bathtub in 2004.

After prosecutors announced the appeal, Will County Circuit Judge Stephen White ruled there were "compelling reasons" not to reduce Peterson's $20 million bond. Though he would not elaborate, prosecutors have suggested White was swayed by evidence they presented that Peterson killed Savio to silence her and then killed fourth wife, Stacy Peterson in 2007 for the same reason. Peterson has been named a suspect in Stacy Peterson's disappearance but has not been charged.

But Brodsky said things have changed since then. Prosecutors, he said, have acknowledged in their appeal to the state Supreme Court that their case against Peterson has been "substantially impaired" by the appellate court's decision. As a result, he said, Peterson should not have to remain in custody while this latest legal battle, which could last for months, plays out.

And Steven Greenberg, another Peterson attorney, the latest appeal has the effect of holding Peterson "hostage."

"He can't get to trial even if he wants to," Greenberg said. "They won't let him have his day in court by pursuing this frivolous appeal."

Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow has dismissed the suggestion that the case against Peterson can't be won without the hearsay -- or second hand -- statements that he wants allowed, saying that there remain statements that White has, in fact, ruled admissible. And he said that even if he loses the latest appeal, he will still take the case to trial.

On Tuesday, Glasgow's spokesman Charles Pelkie said Peterson's attorneys have lost previous attempts to have Peterson's bond reduced -- including a decision by the state Supreme Court not to even hear the appeal -- and that there remain the same "compelling reasons" to keep Peterson in jail that White found.

"Nothing's changed," he said.