Illinois high court upholds former cop Peterson’s murder conviction

(Reuters) – The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the conviction of former Chicago-area police officer Drew Peterson for murdering his third wife.

Peterson, who was sentenced to 38 years in prison for the 2004 murder of Kathleen Savio, was given an additional 40 years in 2016 after being found guilty of trying to hire a hit man to kill the prosecutor who argued for his conviction in his first trial.

Peterson’s attorneys had urged the state’s highest court to overturn his conviction of Savio’s murder on several technical grounds, including the admission of hearsay statements and the competence of his lawyer for calling as a defense witness Savio’s divorce lawyer, Harry Smith.

The court’s seven justices, however, unanimously rejected Peterson’s arguments, which an appellate court had also rejected.

”Based on our review of the record in this case, we conclude that defendant has failed to demonstrate that counsel’s decision to call Smith as a witness at trial was ‘not within the realm of trial strategy,’” the court said in its 40-page opinion.

In May 2016, Peterson, a former Bolingbrook, Illinois, police sergeant, was found guilty of solicitation of murder and solicitation of murder for hire when a jury agreed he had plotted in 2014 to find someone to kill James Glasgow, the Will County state’s attorney who prosecuted him for Savio’s murder.

At the time of Savio’s death, which was initially thought to be an accident, Peterson, 63, was married to his fourth wife, Stacy Cales. Suspicions about Savio’s death not being accidental were raised when Stacy disappeared in 2007.

The Savio murder case was made into a television movie starring Rob Lowe.

Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Patrick Enright and Dan Grebler

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