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Peterson defense attorney reviewing SBI testimony

Posted August 18, 2010

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— In light of a report on the practices of the State Bureau of Investigation's crime lab, a former defense attorney for Durham novelist Mike Peterson says he will re-examine the testimony of a blood analysis expert who helped prosecutors win the case against his client seven years ago.

The results of a five-month outside review, released Wednesday, found blood evidence in 190 criminal cases from 1987 to 2003 might have been omitted or overlooked in reports to defense attorneys.

Five of the most "egregious" cases, according to the report, involved SBI agent Duane Deaver, who was an expert witness for the state in Peterson's 2003 murder trial. The new director of the SBI, Gregory S. McLeod, said Wednesday that Deaver is on leave from the agency with pay while his cases are reviewed.

Peterson's case was not among any of the cases listed in the SBI review.

He is serving a life sentence for the December 2001 beating death of his wife, Kathleen, whom emergency workers found dead at the bottom of a staircase in the couple's Durham mansion.

"Deaver was the centerpiece of the prosecution's case – the blood," Peterson's original defense attorney, David Rudolf, said in an e-mail Wednesday. "I certainly think the issues relating to Deaver and the other SBI lab personnel who testified in support of the prosecution's theory need to be raised as grounds for Michael to have a new trial."

Deaver testified that blood spatter at the crime scene was consistent with a beating, but Rudolf consistently questioned his methods, calling them unscientific and unreliable.

"He was not only wrong and a bad scientist, as we argued at the time, he was also willing to pervert or hide the truth when it suited the prosecution’s case," Rudolf said.

Deaver – who an SBI spokeswoman said Wednesday is on "investigatory placement," or paid leave – could not be reached for comment.

Peterson's daughter-in-law, Rebecca Peterson, said in a statement that the family is encouraged by recent developments.

Mike Peterson has exhausted his appeals on the state level, and his appeal is pending in federal court.

"Before and during the trial, we witnessed firsthand the unscientific 'experiments' of Duane Deaver and the other SBI analysts," Rebecca Peterson said. "Our complaints regarding Deaver’s incompetence and lack of professionalism were largely ignored at the time."

Freda Black, a former Durham prosecutor who helped send Peterson to prison, said Wednesday that she "couldn't imagine" Deaver's work being questioned, but declined to comment further until she had a chance to read the report on the SBI.

"Duane Deaver is one of the best analysts and experts I had the pleasure to work with in 25 years of practicing law," she said.

The SBI review accuses Deaver of overstating or falsely reporting blood test results, including one in the case against Desmond Keith Carter, who was executed in 2002.

In two of the cases, including Carter’s, Deaver’s final report on blood analyses said his tests “revealed the presence of blood” when his notes indicated negative results from follow-up tests.

His notes indicate that he got a negative result because he didn’t have enough sample left for the confirmatory test.

In three other cases, the review said Deaver’s reports stated further tests were “inconclusive” or “no result” while his lab notes reflected negative results.

The Attorney General’s Office said Carter confessed to the crime, and the evidence in question wasn’t introduced at trial, the report said.

Chris Swecker and Mike Wolf, former assistant FBI directors called upon by Attorney General Roy Cooper for the review, said they couldn’t determine how Deaver’s mistakes happened, and they leave open the possibility that he didn’t purposely misreport results.

In addition to the Deaver cases, the review found 35 cases where a report states there were indications of blood and that no further testing was done. But handwritten lab notes reflect confirmatory tests got negative or inconclusive results.

The SBI's new director, Greg McLeod, said Wednesday that he is in the process of completing an internal review into the SBI practices.

"Appropriate personnel action will be taken once the review is complete," he said.


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  • superman Aug 20, 2010

    Look at any way you want and Peterson comes out guilty. If you testify in court as an "expert" you usually have to provide some sort of history and credentials. You just dont testify and say you are an expert! If he wasnt an expert where was Petersons attorney when he was on the stand testifying as an expert?

  • itsmyownopinion Aug 19, 2010

    Don't forget LE in Durham had an ax to grind because Peterson had written some unflattering "stories" about them. Don't forget the stellar work of some in the DA's office. The much talked about "blow-poke" was found undisturbed, covered in cobwebs. How did that happen? That was almost a Perry Mason moment.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Aug 19, 2010

    They did other questionable things in the Peterson trial.

    They used innuendo trying to tie the death of the other woman to Peterson when there had never been a conviction.

    They brought him having computer sex with the guy into the equation when it wasn't relevant.

    Peterson's trial was like a shotgun blast.

    They through everything against the wall hoping something would stick.

  • wildcat Aug 19, 2010

    Peterson is now in prison and will not ever get out. So don't even worry about that.

  • BadDayforButch Aug 19, 2010

    thatsgreat - When you are facing insurmountable odds such as blood evidence aqgainst you, you may actually feel you have no way out except to plead guilty hoping that the sentence will be merciful because you actually "confessed" I can also see that many of these people in jail on 2nd degree murder charges may have had the same pressure and agreed to a lesser charge. This is an absolute mess caused by our inept government agencies. Folks, this is going ot take a LOT of taxpayer dollars to clean up. Time to remove the Dems from power for the first time in a century this November. This is ridiculous.

  • BadDayforButch Aug 19, 2010

    Who was the blood splatter "expert", Deaver ? I think any trial where he was the "expert" witness will need to be looked at again. He now has no credibility.

  • dchurn2 Aug 19, 2010

    Wasn't there a question about a fire poker that the prosecution claimed was the murder weapon? I seem to remember they couldn't find it for months. Then low and behold it is discovered on the garage floor months into the investigation. Personally never beleived Peterson, but wasn't ever really comfortable with that story fromt he SBI either.

  • wildcat Aug 19, 2010

    parawife.......could you have done any better IF you had been on this jury. I doubt it. Quit your whinning.

  • itsmyownopinion Aug 19, 2010

    "...Really wish he had been given the Death Penalty so I wouldn't have to constantly read about him whining."

    Really? Who's forcing you to read this story?

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Aug 19, 2010

    This is REALLY getting old. The man will file appeals until the day he dies. Really wish he had been given the Death Penalty so I wouldn't have to constantly read about him whining.