Local News

Defense Begins Its Case In Petrick Murder Trial

Posted November 17, 2005
Updated December 10, 2006

— Jurors in the Robert Petrick murder trial moved outside of the courthouse Thursday to see the defendant's Mazda Miata that Durham police impounded as part of their investigation.

Petrick, who is representing himself against accusations that he killed his wife, wanted the jury to see the car's trunk size to refute a witness's testimony that a cadaver dog detected the scent of decomposing human remains in the trunk.

He argued that his wife, Janine Sutphen, was a large woman.

Petrick, who began presenting his case Thursday after the prosecution rested, also called his first witness to testify.

A former neighbor told jurors that he had never heard Sutphen and her husband fight and never saw anything unusual at the couple's home.

The prosecution wrapped up its case with a former psychiatric nurse demonstrating a baskethold on Assistant District Attorney Mitch Garrell to show that Petrick knew how to kill someone with his bare hands.

Hugh Carroll told jurors he had shown Petrick years ago how to perform the sometime fatal maneuver and said that if done wrong or with too much force, the baskethold could push all the air out of a person's lungs.

Medical examiner Dr. Thomas Clark had testified earlier in the trial that Sutphen had been either strangled or asphyxiated.

The trial is expected to resume Friday with Petrick possibly calling one or two witnesses to the stand before court recesses for the Thanksgiving holiday.
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