Local News

Accusations, Missing Evidence Take Friday Spotlight In Peterson Trial

Posted July 28, 2003

— A heated debate between lawyers took place in the Mike Peterson murder trial Friday. The prosecution and defense accused each other of influencing witnesses and jurors, and of leaking information.

The day began with a second evidence technician taking the stand, leading to a second round of attacks by the defense and an embarrassing moment for the prosecution.

Peterson is on trial for first-degree murder, accused of killing his wife, Kathleen, in early December 2001. Peterson says his wife died after falling down stairs in their home.

Evidence technician Eric Campen was caught off guard by some missing evidence Friday. He also took the brunt of the blows from Peterson's attorney.

Campen took one blow after another from David Rudolf.

Prosecutor Jim Hardin fought back, accusing Rudolf of badgering the witness.

"He's making little comments like: 'Right. Oh, yeah,'" Hardin said to Judge Orlando Hudson. "They are intended to be rude."

The sparring between the two lawyers continued after the jury went home. Hardin accused Rudolf of trying the case in the media.

"My understanding is Mr. Rudolf talked about the blood-spatter evidence, and it is not even evidence yet," Hardin said. "The other area he started talking about was Mr. Peterson's sexual preference."

Hardin's complaint stemmed from a TV interview Rudolf did on Court TV Thursday afternoon.

"The reason I went on that program," Rudolf said, "(was) there was a leak from the DA's office earlier this week."

Hardin denied any leaks came from his side of the aisle.

"That is always Mr. Rudolf's pat answer when something gets developed in the media he doesn't like," Hardin said. "He just points over here."

Rudolf argued that he has every right to do interviews. He often gives daily briefings outside the courthouse.

Hardin claimed media overexposure could hurt his case. Hudson disagreed, saying the only people who matter are jurors, and they've been ordered not to watch TV.

The prosecution's case took an embarrassing turn Friday while Campen was on the stand. He testified about photographing and collecting what looked like a small piece of metal shaving.

He said he had spotted it in the bloody stairwell of the Peterson mansion on the night Kathleen Peterson died.

The item was supposed to be tested at the SBI lab and then sealed in a container. But, when Campen opened the container in court Friday, it was empty.

"I have no idea where it is," Campen said, referring to the evidence. "I know it was collected."

When it came time for Rudolf to question Campen, Rudolf seized upon the missing evidence.

Rudolf: Do you know where it is?"

Campen: "No, sir. I do not."

Rudolf: "Do you know why not?"

Campen: "No, sir."

The cross examination became heated, and Rudolf became frustrated.

"I didn't ask you a question," Rudolf said, frustrated when Campen tried to make a comment.

Hudson called Rudolf to the bench and reprimanded him.

Later, Rudolf questioned Campen about his experience with luminol, a chemical that illuminates blood.

Rudolf: "You haven't sprayed luminol that much, have you?"

Campen: "I have 10 to 15 times."

Rudolf wondered out loud if Campen was lying because that answer was different than one he gave during a hearing in March.

Rudolf: "Let me ask you this: were you telling the truth that day?"

Campen: "I was giving an educated guess."

Hardin handed out Campen's evidence report to the jury but not before deleting a section at the defense team's request. That section contained information about pornographic material found at the Peterson mansion.

Hudson has not ruled yet if that will be admissable as evidence.

Before lunch on Friday, Campen showed the jury two wine glasses found on the kitchen counter. He said they held small amounts of dark liquid inside.

Peterson has claimed in the past that he and his wife were celebrating that night and drinking wine.

Campen told the jury that investigators tested both wine glasses, yet only found identifiable fingerprints on one.

"The one on my left is the one that appears to be cleaner when I observed it." he said. "The one on the right, it looked smudged."

It will be up to another witness to testify to whom those fingerprints belong.

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