Local News

Lawyers, Judge To Discuss Jury Selection In Peterson Trial

Posted March 20, 2003

— Prosecutors, defense attorneys and the judge in the case of the Durham novelist accused of killing his wife will meet to discuss how to obtain an impartial jury in the highly publicized case.

The lawyers and Superior Court Judge Orlando F. Hudson will meet Friday to discuss the best way to choose jurors for the trial of Michael Peterson, scheduled to begin May 5.

Among their options summoning a separate pool of prospective jurors just for the Peterson trial. The alternative would be to summon more than the usual number of potential jurors and spread them among the Peterson case and three other cases that might be in progress at the time.

Such questions have become critical because prospective jurors usually are notified at least a month in advance that they must appear in court. This means that summonses for May 5 should go out as early as next week, Trial Court Administrator Kathy Shuart said Wednesday.

Shuart said 70 potential jurors usually are called for the opening day of each trial week in Durham, but more may be needed when the Peterson case begins.

"Obviously, when we have a trial of some notoriety, it causes us to reconsider our equations," Shuart added. "We'll have to juggle some things. We'll just have to figure and balance."

Peterson, a novelist, former newspaper columnist and one-time mayoral candidate, is accused of first-degree murder in the December 2001 death of his wife of five years in the couple's home.

Nortel Networks executive Kathleen Peterson was found dead at the bottom of some stairs in the sprawling home.

Peterson has said she apparently died from an accidental fall down the stairway. But police and prosecutors pointed to what they said was evidence of murder, including numerous deep gashes to the back of Kathleen Peterson's head.

Peterson would face a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole if convicted of first-degree murder. The death penalty is not being sought.

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