Defense Claims Search For Evidence Prevented Peterson From Attending Wife's Wake
Posted July 18, 2003
DURHAM, N.C. — Were police insensitive or were they just doing their job? Those questions came up in court Tuesday in day 11 of the Mike Peterson trial.
Three days after Kathleen Peterson died, police said they returned to the Petersons' home for another search. Authorities say they were looking for a computer and computer records.
Another police officer, Cpl. Kim Gregory, of the Durham Police Department, testified that when police showed up to conduct the search of the house, Peterson told her that, "if she didn't mind, he was getting dressed to see his dead wife in a coffin."
Defense attorneys countered by saying Peterson was upset at the time because the police search prevented him from attending his wife's wake.
"This search warrant was obtained at 5:05 p.m. Right?" defense attorney David Rudolf said.
"Yes, sir," Gregory said.
"And that would have been exactly the same time that the viewing of Mrs. Peterson's body was announced in the newspaper," Rudolf said.
Later, Lt. Connie Bullock, of the Durham Police Department, insisted police did take the family's feelings into account. He said they wanted to do the search while no one was at home.
"We wanted it to be less intrusive for them in consideration for them, so we wanted to execute it at the time of the visitation," he said.
Mike Peterson is charged with the death of his wife, Kathleen, in their Durham home in December 2001. Prosecutors have alleged Kathleen Peterson's death was for financial gain while defense attorneys claim she died from an accidental fall from a staircase and police may have been out to get Mike Peterson for a series of columns criticizing the Police Department.
Earlier in the day in an effort to show jurors that the Durham Police Department was not biased toward Mike Peterson, Officer Trent Hall testified that he liked the Durham novelist. In fact, Hall said one of the reasons that he showed up at the Petersons' house the night of Kathleen Peterson's death was because he was worried about Mike Peterson.
Hall testified that he was part of the department's K-9 unit. In 1999, Hall told jurors that he wrote an e-mail to Peterson about one of his newspaper columns. As a result, Peterson rode along with Hall during one of his patrols, and Peterson wrote a positive piece about the experience.
"Based on the ridealong and the e-mails, you had a good relationship with Mike Peterson," prosecutor Freda Black asked Hall.
"Yes," Hall replied.
Two years later, Hall and his dog, Bosco, was involved in a search of the Petersons' house, looking for a possible murder weapon.
Hall said a detective had showed him a picture of an imprint on a bloody stair, asked him what he thought caused the mark and then sent him out to look for the possible murder weapon.
"I was thinking that it was maybe a tire tool or a fireplace instrument -- something with a long handle," Hall said.
"What made you think that?" Black asked.
"The impressions in the blood," Hall said.
Rudolf suggested the photograph was misleading and Hall's conclusion was off-base.
"Do you know what the particular dimensions were of this particular thing?" Rudolf asked.
"No, I did not," Hall said.
"No one gave you any measurements," Rudolf said.
"No, they did not," Hall said.
Hall testified that after a two-hour search, he could not find a murder weapon on the property.
A forensic meteorologist was supposed to testify Wednesday about the weather the night Kathleen died, but his testimony was postponed. On Thursday, jurors are expected to hear from a probate clerk and lawyer about more financial matters and the fact that Kathleen Peterson died without a will.