Judge lifts house arrest for Mike Peterson
Posted July 8
Durham, N.C. — A Superior Court judge on Tuesday agreed to end bond restrictions on Mike Peterson that have kept the novelist and one-time Durham mayoral candidate under house arrest and on electronic monitoring for more than two years as he awaits a retrial in his wife's 2001 death.
After more than eight years in prison, Peterson was granted a new trial in December 2011 when 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 state Court of Appeals unanimously upheld Hudson's ruling a year ago, and the Supreme Court declined to intervene last December.
Peterson, 70, has been under house arrest and worn an ankle monitoring bracelet for 937 days since his December 2011 release, and Christie Long, Durham County's pretrial coordinator, said Tuesday that she couldn't think of anyone being under monitoring that long.
"He made himself available. He checked in. He’s been monitored daily by the electronic monitoring, We’ve not had any problems or violations," Long said.
Defense attorney Kerry Sutton said the ankle monitor has cost Durham County $14,000, and she argued that Peterson has met all conditions of his bond for more than 30 months and should be allowed more freedom before his trial.
But Peterson's wife's family said he is a flight risk and urged Hudson to keep him under house arrest.
"He has nothing to lose. He doesn’t even have to search the Internet for ways to flee," sister-in-law Lori Campbell said. "His reasons for leaving are increasing, not decreasing. If anything, he should be more closely monitored."
Sister-in-law Candace Zamperini said her family is terrified of Peterson being turned loose, noting Peterson's stepdaughter has moved out of the country because she's scared of him.
"It takes all our strength to be in the same room with him, even with your armed guards. It's terrifying," Zamperini said. "This monitoring is the only way we get peace and some semblance of security at night."
Hudson ruled that Peterson must obtain a judge's permission to leave North Carolina but is free to travel within the state. He also ordered Peterson to notify his in-laws if he plans to be in their vicinity.
"We look forward to a day in the not too distant future when Michael will be exonerated completely," David Rudolf, Peterson's attorney, said after the hearing.
"He strangled my sister, beat my sister. There’s no doubt a jury will find him guilty, and we’ll be back to fight for justice," Zamperini said.
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.
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 in 2011 amid an independent review of suspect practices at the state crime lab.
Peterson is due back in court in September. In the meantime, there will likely be discussions on exactly who will represent Peterson and whether a plea deal can be reached before the case goes back to trial.