Local News

Durham Man Hires Top Criminal Defense Lawyer

Posted January 16, 2002

— Durham police are continuing their investigation into the death of Kathleen Peterson.

Police have not charged her husband with any crime or even named him as a suspect. So why did Michael Peterson feel the need to hire one of the best defense attorneys in the state?

Peterson, a novelist and former Durham candidate for City Council and mayor, hired criminal defense lawyer David Rudolf.

"I don't think you can go anywhere in this state and not know who David Rudolf is if you're a criminal defense lawyer," said Brian Aus, a Durham criminal defense attorney.

Aus said that Rudolf is well-respected among his peers and that his representation is highly sought.

Rudolf has been credited with saving Carolina Panther Rae Carruth from a possible death sentence.

Unlike those clients, Peterson has not been charged in the death of his wife one week ago. However, police said that they are suspicious.

"There's a potential here of a murder charge coming at him and that's loss of life possibly, loss of liberty if you're convicted. So you need to start right from the beginning, developing a defense and hoping that you never have to use it," Aus said.

Durham police have searched the Peterson home and seized items several times since Kathleen Peterson died from a blow to the head.

"We have taken our evidence and forensics unit to a new level. We've got commanders in place that are skilled investigators. [The investigation] is in good hands," Durham Police Chief Teresa Chambers said.

Peterson told 911 that his wife fell down a flight of stairs. Authorities said that they are suspicious because of the amount of blood they found.

Peterson's original attorneys advised him not to talk to police, because they claimed officers treated Peterson like a suspect.

Aus said that was good advice.

"In my experience, the most innocent statements can be taken, and with the proper twisting and the proper fluffing and playing up, can be used against you and it's a very dangerous game. By getting someone like David Rudolf, who is just probably, in my mind, one of the most experienced trial lawyers in the state of North Carolina, if not elsewhere, makes good sense," Aus said.

Aus said that he does not read anything into Peterson's guilt or innocence in the hiring of Rudolf. He added that if a client can afford the best representation, why not go after it.


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