DURHAM, N.C. — As another juror was seated for the Mike Peterson trial, the prosecution is preparing for a possible trip to Germany in the third week of June.
Both sides agreed Tuesday to accept a 19-year-old black female, who works at Marshalls, as the sixth juror. So far, two men and four women -- five black, one white -- have been seated for the trial.
Meanwhile, four lawyers from the District Attorney's Office and Detective Art Holland, the lead investigator in the case, want to go to Germany to further investigate Elizabeth Ratliff's death. Ratliff, a schoolteacher and friend of Mike Peterson, was found dead at the bottom of a staircase in Germany in 1985.
"There have been some new developments, new information uncovered, and it's essential and necessary for us to go to Germany at this point," Holland said.
Prosecutors have said Ratliff's death is similar to the death of Peterson's wife, Kathleen. Kathleen Peterson's body was found at the bottom of a staircase at the couple's Durham home in December 2001. Peterson has been charged with his wife's death.
Authorities recently exhumed Ratliff's body and a new autopsy suggests that she was murdered. Peterson has always maintained Ratliff died of natural causes, and an initial autopsy supported that, but David Rudolf, Peterson's defense attorney, admits this is like preparing for two murder cases, not one.
"Technically, he may not be charged in that case, but that elephant's in the room and we have got to deal with it," he said.
If members of the prosecution head to Germany, they will, most likely, interview people who knew both Ratliff and Peterson. They are also expected to talk to the nanny who found Ratliff's body.
"It will also assist us in closing up loose ends we're unable to do via telephone," Holland said.
It would be the prosecution's first trip to Germany. A member of Peterson's defense team has traveled to Germany twice so far.
Judge Orlando Hudson has not ruled yet as to whether information about Ratliff's death would be admissible in trial. He said he will not make a decision about that until testimony begins.
In other news Tuesday, another potential juror has been dismissed for cause. The judge's reasons have to do with her prior service on the grand jury.