Local News

Retired appellate lawyer: Plenty of evidence of Peterson's guilt

Posted December 30, 2011

Novelist and one-time mayoral candidate Mike Peterson was convicted in 2003 of first-degree murder in the Dec. 9, 2001, death of his wife. Kathleen Peterson, a Nortel Networks executive, was found in a pool of blood at the bottom of a staircase in the couple's Durham mansion.

— 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.

Bud Crumpler, former assistant attorney general Retired lawyer blames Durham DA for Peterson's new trial

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.


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  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Jan 2, 2012

    He's typical of what's wrong with the NC criminal justice system.

    Dever was just the tip of the ice berg.

    Once the criminal justice system decides someone is guilty, they will do whatever it takes to get a conviction irregardless of the evidence.

    If there is no evidence they will make their own evidence. Dever was on of several go to experts that the DA's use to keep their prosecution rates high.

  • carolinagirl1976 Dec 30, 2011

    What a highly inappropriate statement!! They seem determined not to give this man a fair trial! He certainly didn't have a fair trial the first time. Now it appears he won't the second time around either.

  • dollibug Dec 30, 2011

    So I guess now....the media is also gonna CONVICT this man yet again....before the re trial gets a chance in court...INTERESTING....just like another trial this year in Wake County....and a 42 second google search....

  • 2323 Dec 30, 2011

    Lets let the state's AG office handle this new trial. Tracey Cline is not the one to handle this. Give them all of the evidence and let them handle it. I think that is fair.

  • samr Dec 30, 2011

    This guy should know better. As much as he is right about the evidence, we still have another trial to go through and his comments could be regarded as prejudicial and tainting the potential jury pool. As it is, it seems impossible to find an impartial jury at this point.

    What the guy doesn't acknowledge is that despite the evidence, most jurors said that Deaver's testimony was central to their decision to convict.

  • Milkman Dec 30, 2011

    All is as it should be. Peterson gets a new trial because the SBI botched the blood evidence, Cline botched the hearing for a new trial by not mentioning the good evidence she did have, and the State feels great about their chances in the new trial.

    Guilty or innocent I'm happy to see Peterson get a new trial, let's get on with it.

  • Coretta Scott Thing Dec 30, 2011

    Wow, how crazy can they be in Durham to allow some former state DA to run off at the mouth about something that will be decided by a real trial this time around. They should muzzle him immediately.

  • viking416 Dec 30, 2011

    Hmmmm, a former State DA who like the prosecutions case...this is shattering news. I agree with a previous poster....this guy is seeking attention and should not be given any. This matter is before the courts now.

  • itsmyownopinion Dec 30, 2011

    Somebody else who hasn't seen his name in the news lately?

  • disgusted2010 Dec 30, 2011

    I wonder when the News and Observer will go after Mr. Crumpler like they have targeted Mr. Deaver?