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Drew Peterson fires member of his defense team

By Stacy St. Clair, Chicago Tribune –

CHICAGO — Drew Peterson has fired the attorney who loudly warned against calling Kathleen Savio’s divorce lawyer as a defense witness — a move which Peterson’s lead counsel insisted upon and many considered a devastating miscalculation.

Peterson notified attorney Steve Greenberg of his decision Tuesday, just days after jurors said divorce lawyer Harry Smith’s testimony tipped the scales in the prosecution’s favor and led to the retired Bolingbrook, Ill., police sergeant’s conviction.

Smith told jurors that Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy, asked him if she could get more money in a divorce if she threatened to tell police about her husband’s role in Savio’s death.

Lead attorney Joel Brodsky decided to call Smith against the advice of the rest of the defense team and after the judge warned him of the possible consequences. Greenberg was overheard pleading with him not to do it in a courthouse hallway.

The debate ended when Peterson sided with Brodsky.

“I think Mr. Peterson was represented by five wonderful lawyers out of six,” Greenberg said Tuesday. “His loyalty to the sixth is disconcerting.”

Greenberg — who had argued several motions during the prosecution’s case to limit what Smith could tell jurors under state questioning — warned Brodsky that he could be opening Pandora’s Box during their hallway shouting match.

“I’ve filed 74 (expletive) motions to keep him out and now you’re going to undo all of it,” Greenberg told Brodsky in a loud, exasperated voice.

Tensions, however, had been building between Brodsky and Greenberg long before Smith’s appearance. They clashed earlier this year when Greenberg publicly suggested that Peterson’s and Brodsky’s sophomoric television and radio appearances in the weeks after Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy, disappeared were far more damaging to his client’s case than a made-for-TV movie about Peterson.

Though Greenberg had a good rapport with Will County Judge Edward Burmila and had been winning most of the defense team’s successful motions, Brodsky banned him from making objections and often hushed him in court.

Still, Greenberg and Brodsky presented a united front before the TV cameras during their frequent news conferences. Wearing sunglasses and wide grins, they often poked fun at prosecutors and witnesses.

The duo, along with defense attorney Joe Lopez, were sharply criticized for a press conference during jury selection in which they mocked Stacy Peterson’s disappearance. They later apologized.

Brodsky, who had never tried a homicide case before Peterson hired him in 2007, did not return a request for comment Tuesday. In a series of emails to the Chicago Tribune over the weekend, Brodsky criticized Greenberg for not being a team player.

Peterson, 58, was convicted last week of killing his third wife, Savio, in 2004. He remains a suspect in the 2007 disappearance of Stacy Peterson, who vanished a few days after contacting Smith.

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