Local News

Mike Peterson's original attorney returning for retrial

Posted December 1, 2016

Mike Peterson listens to legal arguments during a Nov. 14, 2016, hearing as to whether a murder charge against him in his wife's December 2001 death should be dismissed.

— A few weeks after losing his bid to end the 15-year-old murder case against him, Mike Peterson has made a change to his defense team.

David Rudolf, the Charlotte attorney who represented Peterson in his 2003 trial, filed paperwork Thursday to represent the 73-year-old Durham novelist and one-time mayoral candidate at his retrial next May.

Peterson was found guilty after one of the longest trials in North Carolina history of killing Kathleen Peterson on Dec. 9, 2001, but the conviction was overturned in 2011 when Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson ruled that a key prosecution witness had lied on the stand.

Rudolf said he will take the case pro bono.

The move bumped Mary Jude Darrow, who had been appointed by the court to represent Peterson, off the defense team.

Darrow had argued that the charges against Peterson should be thrown out because mishandled evidence in the case deprived him of the chance to have it tested now for DNA or other details that might clear Peterson's name.

Hudson said during a Nov. 14 hearing that the condition of the evidence didn't rise to the level of violating Peterson's constitutional right to a fair trial, and he denied Darrow's motion.


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  • Jackie Adams Dec 3, 2016
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    Funny how Rudolph couldn't continue representing Peterson pro bono because he wasn't making any money after the first trial and through some appeal processes...... now that this is getting close to an end, he suddenly decides he can work for free again.....I can't wrap my head around the fact that Peterson went back to Rudolph after he was found guilty.....It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this will not go back to trial again - who in the State of North Carolina doesn't know every detail about this case? How could he possibly get a more fair trial than before? I can't wait to see how this plays out... and I agree with Jim Frei regarding his opinion of Rudolph - could care less that he is from up north, but do think that he is a show boater that wants his face in the press.....

  • Jim Frei Dec 1, 2016
    user avatar

    I watched the first trial. The jurors did not like David Rudolf.

    Personally, I think Mrs. Peterson was drunk and fell backwards down the stairs, and probably twice.

  • Deborrah Newton Dec 1, 2016
    user avatar

    Jim Frei: David Rudolf has reason to be confident, as he is one of the finest, most passionate defense attorneys I have ever worked with. Not only is he the real deal, he spent many years training new lawyers at UNC. So, I guess he, in fact, "knows it all". Mr. Peterson is fortunate his original counsel is willing to do it again, and for free, and that is David. I am proud he is a North Carolina lawyer. Whatever your issues, David Rudolf's competence will never credibly be in question. I wonder: Have YOU ever shouldered such responsibility for another human in need? ... See how that works? Apologies are, I hear, good for the soul, you might try that. Deb Newton, Criminal Defense Attorney

  • Jacob Smith Dec 1, 2016
    user avatar

    I'm think he will probably get off this time around.

    As I recall, most of the rather sketchy evidence was blood "spatter analysis" done by the GBI crime lab cheater and liar that is responsible for hundreds of retrials.

  • Jim Frei Dec 1, 2016
    user avatar

    David Rudolf is the reason Peterson was found guilty the first time. Local folks can't stand his yankee "know-it-all" "too big for his britches" demeanor.