CHICAGO (MCT) — Moments after his former client was sentenced to 38 years in prison, Joel Brodsky’s reaction was that his reputation as an attorney had been restored.
“You know, I guess I feel vindicated,” Brodsky said with a shrug Thursday outside the courtroom where Drew Peterson was sentenced for the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. “The judge said there was a strategy.”
The strategy in question centered on Brodsky’s decision to call Savio’s divorce attorney, Harry Smith, to the stand during the trial last year.
His co-counsel — especially attorney Steve Greenberg — strongly disagreed, fearing that Smith would cause greater harm than good to Peterson’s defense.
And indeed he did. Smith testified that a few days before Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy, disappeared in 2007, she told him she knew how her husband killed Savio and asked how she could use it in her own efforts to divorce her husband. Some jurors later said his testimony was crucial in their finding of guilty.
Brodsky dropped off the defense team, which then used his decision to call Smith to argue that his representation of Peterson was so ineffective that the defendant deserved a new trial.
Brodsky’s sense of vindication came when Judge Edward Burmila explained his decision to deny a new trial.
“It’s clear from the beginning that he (Brodsky) was out of his depth,” Burmila said. “He did not possess the lawyerly skills that were necessary to undertake this matter.”
Nonetheless, Burmila said while calling Smith may have been ill-advised, there was reason to believe his testimony was needed to counter other damaging testimony from Stacy Peterson’s pastor.
That was enough to buoy Brodsky.
“If there’s anything that was bungled in this case, it was the post-trial motion (for a new trial),” he said.
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