Local News

Durham Novelist To Be Interviewed For Wrongful Death Civil Trial

Posted June 6, 2006

— A Durham judge ruled on Monday that convicted killer Michael Peterson could be interviewed from prison in preparation for his upcoming civil trial.

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    A former Durham mayoral candidate and fiction novelist, Peterson was convicted in October 2003 for the 2001 staircase death of his wife, Nortel Networks executive Kathleen Peterson. She was found dead at the bottom of a staircase inside the couple's Durham mansion.

    Shortly after the murder conviction, attorney Jay Trehy filed a

    wrongful death civil lawsuit

    on behalf of Caitlin Atwater, Kathleen Peterson's daughter.

    Although Peterson was declared indigent and claims to have no money, Trehy has compared the civil suit to a safeguard. He said Atwater wants to make sure Peterson never profits from the crime of which he was convicted.

    In court Monday, Judge Abraham Jones ruled Trehy could depose Peterson. Trehy's office said the deposition is scheduled for June 16 at Nash Correctional Institution in Nashville, N.C., where Peterson is currently serving a life sentence.

    Peterson's attorney in the civil case, Kerry Sutton, said Peterson will give his name, his address and other basic information, but will invoke his right against self-incrimination to any other question.

    The civil trial is expected to begin June 19. Unlike the criminal trial, which lasted more than three months, it is expected to be much shorter. Trehy has previously said it would focus on the relationship Atwater had with her mother and how Kathleen Peterson's death has had an effect on her -- both emotionally and financially.

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