Drew Peterson, the ex-cop convicted of killing his third wife and whose fourth wife mysteriously disappeared, was in an Illinois courtroom Tuesday hoping for a new trial, but the proceedings were overshadowed by a vicious spat among members of the legal team that lost his murder trial last year.
The hearing recessed late Tuesday afternoon and was to resume Wednesday morning. If the judge rejects the request for a new trial, Peterson, 59, a retired Bolingbrook, Ill., police sergeant, could be sentenced immediately for the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, who died in 2004.
Peterson — who first became famous after his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, vanished in 2007 — could face up to 60 years in prison for his conviction in September.
Peterson's current lawyers argue that their former colleague Joel Brodsky — Peterson's lead trial counsel — botched his defense, justifying a new trial. Before the hearing Tuesday in Will County, Brodsky vigorously disputed that contention.
"I fought for five years defending Drew Peterson, very skillfully so," Brodsky told reporters.
Brodsky in particular disputed Peterson lawyer Steve Greenberg's argument that it was his decision alone to call Stacy Peterson's divorce attorney during the trial. The attorney, Harry Smith, testified that Stacy Peterson told him that Drew Peterson killed Savio and that he warned his client that she had to tell someone.
"Not only did they support (calling Smith, but) they realized it was the only move we could make, and I even have emails from Greenberg not only approving Smith being called, but actually suggesting a question or two that I ask him," Brodsky said.
The enmity between the lawyers is so deep that Brodsky withdrew Tuesday from representing Peterson in a in a wrongful death civil suit filed by Savio's sisters. After the retrial hearing, a second judge will hear that suit.
The lawyers' dispute threatened to overshadow the possibility that Peterson himself could be called to the stand, NBC 5 of Chicago reported. And even Greenberg acknowledged that it was a thin reed on which to base a decision to overturn Peterson's conviction.
"We're definitely facing an uphill battle today," Greenberg said.
"But I'm confident," he added. "I know the law is on our side. I know the facts are on our side. ... Some people say it's a cold day in you-know-what when things happen. Well, it's cold today, so maybe it will happen."