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Judge rules that SBI agent's bias violated Peterson's rights

Posted May 9, 2012

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— A former state blood analyst misled the judge and jury in a 2003 murder trial because of his bias toward helping prosecutors win convictions, the judge ruled Wednesday in his written order granting Mike Peterson a new trial in his wife's death more than a decade ago.

Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson granted Peterson, a Durham novelist and one-time mayoral candidate, a new trial in December after a week-long hearing. Wednesday's order spells out Hudson's findings and legal conclusions from the hearing.

Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder in the Dec. 9, 2001, beating death of his wife. Kathleen Peterson was found dead in a pool of blood at the bottom of a staircase in the couple's upscale Durham home.

In seeking a new trial, he argued that former State Bureau of Investigation analyst Duane Deaver provided false and misleading testimony about blood evidence found in the home during the 2003 trial.

Deaver concluded within 90 minutes – and before conducting any tests – that Kathleen Peterson had been murdered and didn't die in an accidental fall down the stairs, as her husband claimed, according to Hudson's ruling. The prosecution's case depended heavily on Deaver's conclusions – the judge noted that one-sixth of the 6,000-page trial transcript is dedicated to Deaver's testimony.

Hudson, who presided over Peterson's initial trial, wrote in his 39-page ruling that Deaver misled him and jurors about his expertise and the accuracy of his blood-spatter tests. Had he known that Deaver had exaggerated his qualifications and that other blood analysts questioned Deaver's tests, the judge wrote, he never would have allowed Deaver to testify as an expert witness.

Duane Deaver Judge: SBI agent misrepresented himself, evidence

"Deaver's testimony had a material impact on the deliberations and verdict of the jury," Hudson wrote. "Deaver's misrepresentations as to the scientific basis and acceptability of his opinions, methods and experiments had a substantial and injurious effect on the outcome of Mr. Peterson's trial."

Prosecutors were obliged to notify Peterson's lawyers of Deaver's bias and scientific questions about his test methods before the 2003 trial, Hudson ruled, and failure to do so amounts to violating Peterson's right to a fair trial.

"We just totally disagree with this," Deaver's attorney, Philip Isley, said of Hudson's written order.

The SBI fired Deaver in January 2011 after an independent review of the state crime lab linked him to some of about 200 cases between 1987 and 2003 where blood evidence was misstated or falsely reported.

The SBI declined to comment on the ruling, which the state has appealed.

Peterson is under electronic monitoring at a friend's home in Durham awaiting his retrial.

31 Comments

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  • ConservativeVoter May 11, 2012

    "This Mr. Deaver has caused nothing but problems!! - awood2"

    Mr. Deaver needs a life sentence for all of the innocent people that helped railroad into prison.

    This would make an example out of him for future DA's, SBI Lab Agent's, and LEO's who are considering taking a short cut to railroad someone into prison.

  • awood2 May 11, 2012

    This Mr. Deaver has caused nothing but problems!!

  • ConservativeVoter May 11, 2012

    You can't convict him based on coincidences, you have to have evidence he committed the murders.

  • ConservativeVoter May 11, 2012

    "Peterson,is guilty no way to women died in the same way,each one from,as he tell it fell down steppes,he was the only one around when they each died.I just do not no how this man can live with what he done.He got a fair trail i think.He might get by here on earth,but one day like all of us he got stand before the real judge, they one you can not fool. - esteryates69"

    I'm not saying he's innocent.

    I think he needs a fair trial.

    He was convicted primarily based on the blood splatter analysis which was falsified by Deaver.

    He needs a trial with evidence that wasn't falsified.

    If you're willing to convict based on falsified evidence, why have the trial. Just hang him and get it over with without worrying about a trial or evidence.

  • esteryates69 May 10, 2012

    Peterson,is guilty no way to women died in the same way,each one from,as he tell it fell down steppes,he was the only one around when they each died.I just do not no how this man can live with what he done.He got a fair trail i think.He might get by here on earth,but one day like all of us he got stand before the real judge, they one you can not fool.

  • ConservativeVoter May 10, 2012

    Peterson may or may not be guilty.

    At least give him a fair trial before sending him back to jail.

  • itsmyownopinion May 10, 2012

    "...and the 2 'deceased' wives will finally get justice."

    Scubagirl

    Please clarify to alleviate my confusion. Thanks.

  • clickhere May 9, 2012

    That first woman 'fell' down the stairs as well. Hmmm, just like his wife. Wake up...

    sctech

    Exactly. Too close a similarity to be circumstantial. Peterson was rightly convicted the first time, and it's a waste to try him again.

  • Scubagirl May 9, 2012

    Based on what I SAW and heard from other witnesses, based on past history of an almost identical death I think he's guilty. BUT he must be convicted in such a way that NOTHING can be changed. Maybe they'll get it right this time and the 2 'deceased' wives will finally get justice.

  • Vanilla Skye May 9, 2012

    One down, 2 to go.
    Cooper will be next, followed by Young.
    I can not believe I read that a Juror said, "We knew we made the right decision , when we saw the look on the victim's family faces.
    Really?
    What about the print on the camera that did not belong to Jason Young?
    What about the eye witness who testified Jason was a "little Taller" than her?
    Heresay evidence was allowed in that should have been inadmissable, along with the day care workers where Cassidy Young never said it was her Dad hurting her Mom. Peterson up at the plate first:

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