Local News

Prosecution Turns To Damage Control In Mike Peterson Trial

Posted July 25, 2003

— Accusations and explanations were front and center in the Mike Peterson murder trial Thursday.

Durham police official Dan George wrapped up his testimony Thursday after 18 hours on the stand and intense questioning from defense attorney David Rudolf.

Another evidence technician, Eric Campen, followed George to the stand as the prosecution tried to show how police conducted a proper investigation.

Peterson is on trial for first-degree murder, accused of killing his wife, Kathleen, in early December 2001. The defense claims Kathleen's death was not an act of crime but an accident, caused when she fell down stairs in the couple's home.

Campen was in charge of the evidence technicians the night Kathleen Peterson died. Prosecutor Jim Hardin let him explain the whys and why-nots of their actions.

Hardin: "Describe the process, if you would, please."

Campen: "I went ahead and used magnetic fingerprints provided on glass because it works well."

Campen methodically walked jurors through the process of gathering evidence. But when Hardin asked about a certain photograph of the scene, Rudolf objected and accused the prosecution of shady practices.

"My problem is with cropping (the photo)," Rudolf said, "and not telling us it is cropped and trying to pass it off as the 10th (of Decemember, 2001, the day after Kathleen Peterson died)."

The photograph had been taken on Dec. 9.

Hardin blasted back. He said Rudolf was just grandstanding.

"I'm not trying to hide anything, as Mr. Rudolf is trying to imply," Hardin said. "But, it sounds good for the camera and looks good on his record.

"Mr. Rudolf is making a mountain out of a molehill."

Earlier in the day, Hardin focused on damage control after two days of Rudolf questioning George, the first evidence technician on the scene.

Hardin: "Why didn't you seize Mike Peterson's clothing as you walked back out the door?"

George: "I couldn't seize anything without a search warrant."

George was back on the stand Thursday morning for his fifth straight day of questioning. Hardin tried to show there is no such thing as a perfect crime scene.

Earlier this week, the defense tried to paint a picture of chaos and confusion at the death scene, which they claim led to contamination of the scene. Rudolf deliberately and methodically tried to point out all the things George and other investigators did wrong at the scene.

Thursday, Hardin tried to show what George and his team had done right.

George explained there are many factors, including weather, that can alter a scene. He said the Peterson case was no different.

Hardin: "Have you ever been to a scene where, right after the homicide was committed, everything was absolutely frozen in place?"

George: "The people, the weather, whether it would be an inside or outside scene, the workers that would have to go in for support, police officers, investigators of any kind . . . "

Later, Rudolf reminded the jury that mistakes were made.

Rudolf: "I don't want to go through the whole list because we spent a couple of days doing it," Rudolf said. "But suffice it to say that there were a number of things here that were within your control personally that were not done properly. Correct?"

George: "There were a number of things that I could have controlled. Yes, sir."

George told WRAL after his testimony ended that he was happy and relieved the experience was over. He said he thought he could have improved on some things he did at the Peterson home that night, but when asked if he did anything wrong, he said: "No."


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