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Testimony In Peterson Trial Ends After Heated Exchange Between Prosecution, Defense

Posted July 8, 2003

— Testimony in the Mike Peterson murder trial ended abruptly Monday after a disagreement over Kathleen Peterson's financial records.

Lawyers spent most of Monday's short court session arguing over the testimony of Lawrence Young, a special agent with the State Bureau of Investigation. When the judge allowed Young to talk about Peterson's bank accounts, it started an heated argument between the prosecution and defense attorneys.

For the past year-and-a-half, David Rudolf, Peterson's lead defense attorney, has complained that District Attorney Jim Hardin was dragging his feet on handing over evidence.

"This is exactly the kind of thing that we should have been given weeks ago," Rudolf said in court. "There's absolutely no reason to be again sandbagged."

Hardin fired back and accused Rudolf of not doing his homework.

"We gave him the information and he makes decisions on how to use it. Not us, he does," Hardin said.

Judge Orlando Hudson called for an end to Monday's testimony so defense attorneys could look at the financial records.

Court proceedings will resume at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. A Nortel Network employee, who is reportedly one of the last people to talk with Kathleen Peterson before her death, is expected to take the stand.

Mike Peterson is accused of killing his wife at their Durham home on Dec. 9, 2001.

Earlier Monday, testimony centered on Kathleen Peterson's job security at Nortel Networks. Kim Barker, Kathleen Peterson's co-worker at Nortel Networks, told jurors about the job climate at the company in the weeks before Peterson's death.

"The business was not going as well and because of that, there was a need to downsize the organization," she said.

Barker told jurors about the optimization or possible layoff of employees at Nortel. When asked by prosecutor Freda Black about whether Kathleen Peterson was on an optimization list, Barker replied, "She was." Barker testified that Peterson was on the list for three days.

The prosecution alleges that Mike Peterson killed his wife for financial gain. The defense countered that theory Monday by asking Barker what she had told an interviewer before the trial.

"What you told him was there was absolutely no way that Kathleen Peterson would have known that she had ever been on the optimization list," defense attorney Tom Maher asked Barker.

"In my opinion, that is correct," Barker replied.

Defense attorneys contend if Kathleen Peterson did not know that she may have been laid off, then her husband would not have known that either and would have no financial reason to harm his wife.

At least one legal expert said he has been surprised by what he has heard so far from prosecutors. The District Attorney's opening statement last week was unexpectedly short and to the point, according to University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill law professor Joseph Kennedy.

Kennedy said that was odd because the prosecution usually gives broad hints at its case in the opening, laying out what it expects to prove.

Last week, prosecutors focused on the crime scene, saying there wouldn't have been so much blood if Kathleen Peterson had just fallen down the stairs. They also established financial troubles and Kathleen's life insurance policy as motives for the alleged crime.

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