Durham, N.C. — A former state attorney who handled the appeals of Mike Peterson's murder conviction said Friday that there is plenty of evidence to find him guilty in a new trial, even without questionable blood evidence.
A novelist and one-time Durham mayoral candidate, Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder in the Dec. 9, 2001, death of his wife. Two weeks ago, a judge granted him a new trial, ruling that a key prosecution witness in his 2003 trial gave false and misleading testimony, depriving him of his right to a fair trial.
Bud Crumpler spent hours poring over evidence in the case as the assistant attorney general who argued against Peterson's lawyers before North Carolina appellate courts. He said he had to speak up after hearing Peterson proclaim his love for his late wife, Kathleen, upon his release from jail while awaiting a new trial.
"That's all I could stand, so I felt I had to do something," Crumpler, who retired in 2009, said in an exclusive interview with WRAL News.
He said he has is certain that Peterson not only killed his wife but also a family friend who died in Germany in 1985. Both women were found at the bottom of staircases, and a medical examiner testified during Peterson's trial that they had similar injuries.
"I don’t have any doubt about his being the murderer in both of those cases,” Crumpler said.
In his request for a new trial, Peterson argued that former State Bureau of Investigation analyst Duane Deaver misled jurors about blood evidence found in the Peterson home.
Peterson's attorney, David Rudolf, relentlessly attacked Deaver's credibility during a week-long hearing on the retrial request earlier this month. An SBI official testified that Deaver was known to be biased in favor of prosecutors, and blood evidence experts said the tests he conducted in the Peterson case were flawed.
The SBI fired Deaver last January.
Rudolf said that much of the blood evidence from the first trial would be suspect in a retrial.
"Duane Deaver was the critical witness for the prosecution," Rudolf said Friday. "He was the only witness who claimed that Mike Peterson was 'in close proximity' to Kathleen Peterson at the time of any impact to her head.
"Moreover, the state has no alleged murder weapon and no credible motive. In short, there is no evidence pointing to Michael Peterson's guilt without Duane Deaver's junk science," he said.
Crumpler said, however, that Peterson could again be convicted without any evidence linked to Deaver.
"I was impressed when we got the (trial) transcript and begin studying it with just how strong the case was for the state,” he said.
The crucial prosecution witness, he said, was Dr. Deborah Radisch, the chief medical examiner for North Carolina. She performed the autopsy on Kathleen Peterson and testified in 2003 that she thought the death was a homicide.
"There was just a lot of other evidence substantiating her opinion that this was a homicide by blunt trauma to the head, and it was not an accident,” he said.
Jurors interviewed by WRAL News after the 2003 trial also noted that Radisch's testimony played a key role in their verdict.
Crumpler criticized Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline for her handling of the recent hearing, saying she should have emphasized other evidence against Peterson so that, even if Deaver's testimony was disregarded, the judge would have refused to grant a new trial.
"(The case) needed to be presented in an effective way and was not presented in an effective way,” he said. "Tracey Cline said at the start of the hearing that she wanted to continue this because she was not prepared. That’s unbelievable to me. You don’t go into a hearing like this without adequate preparation.”
Cline said that some of the evidence she wanted to present during the hearing, such as testimony from forensic experts who would have supported Deaver's conclusions, was disallowed by the judge.
Peterson is under electronic monitoring at a friend's home in the Colony Park neighborhood of Durham while awaiting the new trial. No date has been set for the retrial.