AG's office might handle Peterson's request for new trial
Posted December 1, 2011
Durham, N.C. — Mike Peterson's quest for a new trial in his wife's murder 10 years ago could be delayed after the North Carolina Attorney General's Office agreed to assume responsibility for the case from Durham County prosecutors.
Peterson, 68, was convicted in 2003 of first-degree murder in the Dec. 9, 2001, death of his wife, Kathleen Peterson. She was found dead in a pool of blood at the bottom of a staircase in the couple's upscale Durham home.
Prosecutors were never able to establish a clear motive nor a murder weapon, and Peterson, a novelist and former Durham mayoral candidate, has long denied any involvement in her death.
His request for a new trial involves claims that a former State Bureau of Investigation agent who testified at the original trial lied or misled jurors about blood evidence found in the Peterson home.
A hearing had been scheduled for next Monday, but Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline last week asked that Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson be removed from the case.
On Thursday, Cline asked for the Attorney General's Office to take over the case, and spokeswoman Noelle Talley said that state prosecutors would handle the case, provided a judge grants a delay so they can prepare.
Peterson's attorney, David Rudolf, said he is opposed to any delay in the case, noting that Cline has had 10 months to prepare for it and it has been scheduled for five months.
"Experts have already made arrangements to fly to North Carolina for this hearing, and other witnesses have been subpoenaed from various parts of North Carolina, including a number of lawyers, and have arranged their schedules accordingly," Rudolf said.
Cline has blamed Hudson publicly for two cases in which murder charges were dismissed, accused Hudson of corruption and bias and has asked the state Judicial Standards Commission to bar him from hearing criminal cases in the county.
Hudson has asked Superior Court Judge Carl Fox, who is holding court in Durham County through the end of December, to handle Cline's motion regarding him, as well as similar motions in two other cases. That hearing is scheduled for Monday.
Rudolf said Hudson is uniquely qualified to hear the appeal, noting that he presided over the nearly three-month trial eight years ago and would best be able to weigh whether the former SBI agent's testimony was valid.