Local News

New Developments In Peterson Case; No One's Talking

Posted April 25, 2003

— There were new developments in the Mike Peterson murder trial Friday.

But like so much of this headline-grabbing case, the latest events were cloaked in mystery, thanks to legal manuevering.

In most cases, there would be a handful of documents to sort through. But the Peterson case is different.

There's nothing to show, nothing to say. Until the trial starts, mum's the word.

Gag orders and sealed documents aren't exactly what might be expected in the high-profile case that has Peterson facing a murder trial in 10 days. For the last year and a half, the murder of Kathleen Peterson has been a mainstay in the news, and it seems everyone has had something to say about it.

These days, though, the major players are steering clear of the media.

Defense attorney David Rudolf filed a motion Friday and then declined to discuss it.

"I think everything I needed to say is in the orders," Rudolf said. "I'm not going to comment beyond that."

Rudolf bypassed the clerk's office and gave the motion to Judge Orlando Hudson, who then sealed the document from public record.

Next week, a court hearing will be held - - and much of it will be behind closed doors. Lawyers reportedly will discuss the autopsy of Elizabeth Ratliff, a close friend of Mike Peterson who died in a similar fashion to Kathleen Peterson.

Prosecutors had Ratliff's body exhumed last week in Texas so they could look for similarities between her 1985 death and that of Kathleen Peterson.

Attorney Scott Holmes has worked many criminal cases. He said Friday that the secrecy surrounding the Peterson trial is unusual.

He sees it as an attempt to avoid tainting potential jurors.

"There's certain information that might be inflammatory, might be prejudicial, might have a lot of emotional impact," he said. "But it might not be legally appropriate for a jury to listen to."

Holmes said another reason for the sealed documents and gag orders could be to protect personnel files and medical records.

At next week's closed-door hearing, Hudson should decide if the results of the Ratliff autopsy will be admissable at trial. If he allows them, there will be a lot of new information coming out about the case.

But no one talking about it.

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