Local News

Peterson Trial To Begin On Schedule

Posted May 1, 2003

— Attorneys for Mike Peterson said in a Thursday hearing that they won't seek to delay the start of Peterson's murder trial, scheduled to begin with jury selection Monday.

Defense attorney David Rudolf said Peterson and the defense team are eager and ready to get the trial underway.

Thursday's hearing came a day after Judge Orlando Hudson said he wouldn't rule on the admissibility of the Elizabeth Ratliff autopsy until the prosecution brings it up during trial. That decision prompted speculation that Rudolf might ask for a delay Thursday to have time to further research Ratliff's death.

Peterson is accused of killing his wife, Kathleen Peterson, at their home in Durham in 2001. She was found dead at the bottom of a staircase.

Ratliff, a friend of the Petersons, died in similar fashion nearly 20 years ago in Germany. Investigators exhumed her body last month to perform an autopsy.

Ratliff, whose cause of death originally was determined to be a stroke, died of blunt trauma to the head, according to a medical examiner's testimony Monday.

The deaths of Ratliff and Peterson are similar -- something defense lawyer Rudolf does not want jurors to hear.

"I think it's prejudicial; I think it's irrelevant," Rudolf said.

Both Rudolf and District Attorney Jim Hardin continued to square off in court Wednesday with the arguments at times becoming personal.

"If anybody here is to be blamed for media coverage, Mr. Rudolf is to blame. He's been right in the heart of it," Hardin said.

"If he wants to complain to the bar about it, I invite him to do it," Rudolf said.

Peterson raised both of Ratliff's two daughters, who are now in college. One of those daughters, Margaret Ratliff, said Tuesday that she believes Peterson is innocent of murder in the death of his wife.

"I know that dad's innocent," Margaret Ratliff said. "I know he didn't kill either of my mothers. It's just ridiculous."

Kathleen Peterson's sister, Candace Zamperini, drove down from Virginia to hear the courtroom debate.

"Our family is obviously willing to go through whatever we have to to get to the truth of what happened to my sister," she said.

Rudolf said he may need to go to Germany to investigate Ratliff's death. Zamperini said a delay would be fine with her.

"I think more time means the DA has more time to find out about Mike Peterson's life," she said.

Peterson's attorneys also discussed in court Wednesday whether Peterson's sexual orientation would be considered in the trial. Rudolf said authorities found evidence of past homosexual acts involving Peterson. Rudolf originally stated that he did not want jurors to hear about that evidence, but he withdrew that motion saying that the Ratliff autopsy was a more important issue to deal with.

Related Stories From Mike Peterson Case


Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all