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Criminal Law: Peterson Sentenced to 38 Years

Criminal Law update from Joliet, Illinois. Drew Peterson was sentenced today to 38 years in an Illinois State Penitentiary. Months ago he was convicted of the murder of his fourth wife Kathleen Savio in the nationally publicized trial. Peterson's trial team, minus lead attorney Joel Brodsky, filed the motion for a new trial based on many alleged errors but the most publicized was the ineffective assistance of his lead attorney Joel Brodsky for calling to the witness stand a Harry Smith.

Mr. Smith is a divorce attorney who testified in summary that Peterson's third wife, still missing Stacey Peterson, had a phone conversation with him where the subject of whether Peterson killing Savio could be used as leverage in a divorce proceeding. Apparently it was lead attorney Joel Brodsky who insisted on calling Mr. Smith as a defense witness when other attorneys for the defense did not approve of the decision. The Judge denied the motion for a new trial and proceeded to sentencing today.

Notably, there was no physical evidence connecting Peterson to Savio's death which was initially ruled an accident. Savio was found dead in an empty bathtub in 2004 and originally it was ruled an accidental drowning. Reportedly it has been said that some jurors put a lot of weight on the testimony of Mr. Smith in voting to convict Peterson.

Criminal Law allows for the Appellate Court to review these issues. With a 38 year sentence, of which Peterson will have to serve 100% of the sentence, minus any time he has spent in custody waiting for trial, it is most likely that if the ex-police officer will never see life outside of bars should the appellate courts not grant him a new trial, or in the very rare and unlikely situation reverse his conviction outright.

One thing is for certain, there is going to be a long appellate battle for both the prosecution and the defense, and there will ultimately be some very interesting case law coming down on issues of ineffective assistance of counsel and admissions of certain hearsay evidence.

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