Ex-SBI agent overstated experience during Peterson trial
Posted December 6, 2011
Durham, N.C. — An attorney for Mike Peterson attacked the credibility of a former analyst with the State Bureau of Investigation during a Tuesday court hearing to decide whether the Durham novelist and one-time mayoral candidate will get a new murder trial.
Peterson was convicted in 2003 of the Dec. 9, 2001, death of his wife. Kathleen Peterson, a Nortel Networks executive, was found dead in a pool of blood at the bottom of a staircase in the couple's upscale Durham home.
His request for a new trial focuses on testimony provided during the 2003 trial by 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.
Defense attorney David Rudolf said Tuesday that Deaver's testimony was critical to the prosecution's case in Peterson's trial, noting Deaver was the only witness to claim to know what happened inside the Peterson home.
"He claimed that he could tell that Mike Peterson had intentionally wiped blood off the steps," Rudolf said.
Rudolf played clips of Deaver's testimony during the hearing and contrasted it with statements he made last year to Assistant SBI Director Eric Hooks during an internal review of the blood analysis unit.
Hooks, who oversees professional standards for the SBI, testified that Deaver hadn't worked in the field on a homicide investigation before 2000 and had issued reports in only 47 cases. In Peterson's trial, Deaver said his expertise had been used in about 200 cases.
Deaver wasn't allowed to testify in a death penalty trial in Greene County in which the defendant was accused of beating a man to death with a piece of wood, attorney William Gerrans testified during the hearing. Deaver tried to replicate the murder by smashing pumpkins with a two-by-four, Garrens said.
The hearing got off to an emotional start when Kathleen Peterson's sister begged Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson to delay the proceedings.
Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline had asked that the North Carolina Attorney General's Office take the case over from her, but state prosecutors said they would do so only if a delay were granted so they could prepare.
"Ten years, I’ve been without my sister. Ten years, her daughter hasn’t had her, and 10 years, the rest of us have been alive and had their freedom, but not Kathleen," Candace Zamperini said. "She deserves and should get the best, best legal representation.
"(Cline) is not prepared," she said. "It is clear she is not prepared. The office is not prepared.”
Rudolf objected to any delay, saying Cline has had months to prepare and that Mike Peterson's family and other witnesses had flown to Raleigh for the hearing.
Instead of preparing, Rudolf said, Cline has spent recent weeks feuding with Hudson, who has publicly criticized her handling of several cases in the past year.
Cline has claimed the judge is biased against her, and she tried to remove him from hearing Peterson's appeal and hearings in two other cases. Another judge on Monday denied her motion to get a different judge for Peterson's case.
"It’s a little bit like the person who has murdered his parents standing up and filing a motion based on the fact that he is now an orphan," Rudolf said. "Ms. Cline put herself in this situation.”
Tuesday was the first time Hudson and Cline faced each other in court since she first accused him of bias and corruption. The judge declined to delay the hearing, which is expected to last several days.