Decade after wife's death, Peterson continues to seek vindication
Posted December 2, 2011
Nashville, N.C. — After eight years in prison for his wife's murder, Mike Peterson says he's realistic when it comes to his legal appeals, but he continues a quest for a new trial and hopefully clear his name.
"I've seen that it didn't work out (before), so now I'm older and wiser, and I'm saying I'm hopeful," Peterson said Thursday in an interview with WRAL News at Nash Correctional Institution, where he is serving a life prison sentence.
Now, Peterson hopes to get another chance at a new trial next week – almost 10 years to the day that Kathleen Peterson was found in a pool of blood at the bottom of a staircase inside the couple's upscale Durham home.
The latest gambit focuses on expert testimony during his 2003 murder trial from Duane Deaver, a blood analyst who the State Bureau of Investigation fired in January.
An independent review of the SBI crime lab last year found that blood evidence was misstated or falsely reported in about 200 criminal cases between 1987 and 2003. Some of the most egregious cases cited in the review were linked to Deaver.
Peterson said he believes Deaver created what he calls "outrageous" experiments dealing with blood evidence to prove Kathleen Peterson was murdered.
"He's a liar. He's a crook. He's a fraud," he said. "There was no murder, but there was no murder as far as anybody is concerned – even the police – until Duane Deaver walked into that house."
Peterson, who still wears his wedding ring, said he wants to know as much as anyone what happened to his wife on the night of Dec. 9, 2001.
"I don't know (how she died). My belief at the time was that she fell," he said, noting that different theories have been put forth over the years.
Deaver's testimony was a critical factor in his conviction, he said, but he acknowledges that some people will likely never believe in his innocence, even if he gets a new trial and is acquitted.
"Many people won't change their mind. I understand that, but I'm hoping some people will," he said.
Attorney David Rudolf, who represented Peterson in the original trial, offered to work for free in requesting a new trial when he heard about problems with the SBI crime lab and the criticisms of Deaver's work.
A hearing for the new trial had been scheduled for Monday, but it's been pushed back by at least one day because of an ongoing feud between Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline and Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson.
Cline wants Hudson off all criminal cases in Durham County, including Peterson's, alleging that he is biased against her.
Peterson said he doesn't want to get in the "rock fight," saying his case is about the SBI's work and not about Hudson or Cline.
"All I'm hoping for is that, when this happens, everybody can focus on what this is really about," he said.
Still, he said he thinks Hudson is best suited to hear his case because he presided over the 2003 trial, despite the judge ruling frequently against the defense both before and during the trial.
"Nobody knows this case better than Judge Hudson," he said.
Cline also has asked the North Carolina Attorney General's Office to assume responsibility of the case from her.
Several of Peterson's relatives are in town for the court hearing, as is a French film crew that made a documentary about the original trial.
Meanwhile, family members who think Peterson is guilty say the repeated appeals and requests for a new trial are extremely hard on them.
"Eventually, I'm going to get out of here, if i just live long enough. That is my belief," he said.