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Prosecutors to retry Mike Peterson after new trial ruling upheld

Posted July 16, 2013

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— Durham County prosecutors will retry Durham novelist Mike Peterson in the 2001 death of his wife, sources told WRAL News Tuesday.

The decision comes less that 12 hours after the state Court of Appeals issued a unanimous decision upholding a lower court's ruling that Peterson should get a new trial.

After almost a decade in prison, Peterson was granted a new trial in December 2011 when Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson ruled that a key prosecution witness gave false and misleading testimony during Peterson's 2003 murder trial, depriving him of his right to a fair trial.

The one-time Durham mayoral candidate was released from jail and has been under house arrest since then awaiting that opportunity.

Durham County District Attorney Leon Stanback said Tuesday he was discussing with the Attorney General's Office how to proceed with the case. Options included a new trial, dismissing the case or reaching a plea agreement.

Because the Court of Appeals ruling was unanimous, it's unclear whether the state Supreme Court would consider further appeals by prosecutors. Any request for Supreme Court review must be made by Aug. 20.

"I was disappointed, but it was not totally unexpected," Stanback said of the ruling.

Kathleen Peterson was found dead in a pool of blood at the bottom of a staircase in the Petersons' upscale Durham home on Dec. 9, 2001. Prosecutors were never able to establish a clear motive and didn't find a murder weapon, and Mike Peterson has long denied any involvement in her death.

Durham County District Attorney Leon Stanback Durham DA to retry Mike Peterson for murder

Hudson ruled that former State Bureau of Investigation blood analyst Duane Deaver misled jurors about his expertise and used questionable tests on evidence found in the Peterson home.

Deaver was fired by the SBI two years ago amid an independent review of suspect practices at the state crime lab.

The Attorney General's Office had argued that Hudson was wrong to throw out Peterson's conviction, saying other evidence presented during the 2003 would have been enough for jurors to find him guilty of murder.

The appeals court judges said, however, that the violations of Peterson's rights by Deaver's false testimony outweighed the state's argument.

"What is undeniable is that expert witness testimony played a determinative role in the outcome of defendant’s original trial," Judge Robert C. Hunter wrote in Tuesday's ruling.

Stanback said Deaver was "just one of the witnesses on the blood evidence," noting that other witnesses "sort of agreed" with the conclusions he presented at Peterson's trial.

Mike Peterson's appellate attorney, Jim Cooney, said trials have to be fair to both prosecutors and defendants, and Deaver's exaggerations prevented that.

"You don't get a fair trial when law enforcement lies on the stand. Because of Agent Duane Deaver, Mike Peterson did not get a fair trial," Cooney said.

Peterson was obviously pleased with the ruling, said Durham lawyer Kerry Sutton, a longtime friend.

"He's relieved to have made this huge progress, and it's a little bit of validation," Sutton said.

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  • Kilroy Jul 18, 2013

    raleighboy524..Did you skip the conclusion that the death was a homicide?

    I never said Peterson did not kill her. However, I do not think he beat her in the head with a missing fire poker as the state described since there was no skull fractures or brain contusions. All he needs is reasonable doubt, which I have...

  • raleighboy524 Jul 17, 2013

    "I have read the report. Just stating the facts...no skull fracture or brain damage.--Kilroy"

    Did you skip the conclusion that the death was a homicide?

  • itsmyownopinion Jul 17, 2013

    Dear Moderator,
    What guideline did I cross when I've attempted to post to no one in particular, but to remind those who post that the woman in Germany who died was not married to Michael Peterson? NO MAN CAN KILL A "WIFE" HE DOES NOT HAVE.

  • Kilroy Jul 17, 2013

    Seankelly15 "Read the pathology report and then convince me that she fell. I can cite the path report if you like - and the impressions of the medical examiner. Or, do you feel that your medical education is superior to the examiner's?"

    I have read the report. Just stating the facts...no skull fracture or brain damage.

  • retprof Jul 17, 2013

    I watched nearly all of the trial and I was impressed by the other women in Peterson's life who died similarly (coincidence?). I am sure he is the murderer based on the evidence and it had very little to do with the testimony of Deaver. It must also be said that Hardin almost blew the case. He's no bright light and now a judge!

  • seankelly15 Jul 16, 2013

    wayneboyd - "How many do-overs does the government(s) have before they get it right."

    Two things: The government proved its case against Peterson - one trial, not multiple attempts. And second, YOUR tax problems have nothing to do with the prosecution of a murder case.

  • seankelly15 Jul 16, 2013

    A person - "Between the Deaver stuff happening and Hardin trying to use the Peterson case to avoid deployment to Iraq with his unit (and it worked), this whole thing stunk from the beginning. Not to mention, the complete lack of a case"

    Is there something wrong with you? Deaver had it right - he shouldn't have represented himself as a blood splatter expert - but he had it right. And Hardin? Provide proof of your claim. Finally, there was a case... Kathleen was murdered and he was the only one in the house.

  • seankelly15 Jul 16, 2013

    Kilroy - "Actually, there was no cracked skull nor was there brain damaged. Just lacerations on her scalp. You would think if she was beaten, there would be skull fractures and/or brain damage."

    Read the pathology report and then convince me that she fell. I can cite the path report if you like - and the impressions of the medical examiner. Or, do you feel that your medical education is superior to the examiner's?

  • Black HelicoptersNFood Insurance Jul 16, 2013

    Remember kids...no racial justice act because we can't let someone argue race might have had something to do with sentencing (even if those pesky statistics agree) but this guy gets a new trial weekly based on "new" rulings / evidence / owl droppings.....

  • Kilroy Jul 16, 2013

    @SeanKelly-Actually, "the defense maintained then. and I assume maintains now, that Kathleen fell down the stairs repeatedly until she cracked her skull and damaged her brain and died. "

    Actually, there was no cracked skull nor was there brain damaged. Just lacerations on her scalp. You would think if she was beaten, there would be skull fractures and/or brain damage.

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