Local News

Jurors In Mike Peterson Trial Will Not Hear From German Witness

Posted August 27, 2003
Updated December 9, 2006

— A witness statement the prosecution fought to include in the Mike Peterson trial will not go before the jury after all.

Jurors were supposed to hear an affidavit from Karin Hamm, who claims she saw Mike Peterson running from Elizabeth Ratliff's home the night of her death in 1985. Hamm cannot travel to Durham because of a medical condition, but Judge Orlando Hudson decided to allow her testimony through a written statement.

But on Tuesday, prosecutors decided to withdraw Hamm's statement because it was written in German. Prosecutor Freda Black said officials could not find a court-certified translator to translate the affidavit into English.

Peterson is charged with the death of his wife, Kathleen, in December 2001. Prosecutors also believe Peterson may have been responsible for Ratliff's death as well.

With jurors out of the courtroom, Amybeth Berner, Ratliff's friend, told lawyers things just did not add up and she was suspicious of Mike Peterson from the start.

"Mike Peterson was the person on the scene. Liz had boots on her feet. She never wore boots on her feet when she was at home," she said.

Berner described how she had questions about Peterson's character.

"Michael had told me he'd been in the CIA at some point and had point-blank murdered someone while he was in Vietnam. That concerned me," she said.

Berner also claimed when she had child custody problems, Peterson had an unnerving solution.

"Michael came to me at that point, and he said he had connections and if I wanted to have her knocked off, he could do that," Berner said.

The Durham novelist appeared disgusted with Berner's testimony. Defense attorney David Rudolf said Berner's remarks were off base, and he is sure the jury will never hear them.

"I think it's been made clear to Ms. Berner what is admissible testimony and what is, shall we say, unreliable testimony," he said.

Jurors heard some testimony from the nanny who found Elizabeth Ratliff's body. She will be back on the stand Wednesday morning.

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