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Mike Peterson has renewed hope for second trial

Posted August 19, 2010

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— Convicted killer Mike Peterson says he's hopeful he'll get a new trial and eventually be able to spend time as a free man with his grandchild that's on the way.

"It's like you are breathing again. There's hope," Peterson, 66, said Thursday. "I've always felt that there would be, but now it's there."

Peterson says he is pleased by recent scrutiny over Duane Deaver, a State Bureau of Investigation agent whose testimony helped prosecutors win a guilty verdict against him in October 2003.

The state argued that Peterson, a novelist and former Durham mayoral candidate, beat his wife, Kathleen, with a blunt object, causing her to fall down a staircase in the couple's home and die.

"I was convicted on his testimony, because there was nothing else," Peterson said. "There was no murder weapon. There was no motive. There was no witnesses, nothing."

Now serving a life sentence at Nash Correctional Institution in Nashville, Peterson has exhausted his appeals on the state level, and his case is pending in federal court.

Attorneys have sought countless times to get a new trial, introducing new evidence, including a tire iron found in a neighbor's yard and owl feathers found in Kathleen Peterson's hair from a possible owl attack.

Durham lawyer Larry Pollard on Thursday filed three affidavits to support the owl claim, even though a Superior Court judge has previously denied a trial on the basis of the evidence.

Peterson's revived hope comes following mounting criticism of Deaver and the SBI after an independent report released Wednesday found that analysts omitted, overstated or falsely reported blood evidence in 230 cases from 1987 to 2003 – 190 of which led to convictions.

Durham novelist hopeful for new trial Durham novelist hopeful for new trial

His case was not one of those identified in the report, however. Still, David Rudolf, Peterson's original trial attorney, said he's reviewing SBI testimony from the trial.

Deaver has been placed on paid leave, pending the results of an SBI internal investigation.

Irving Joyner, a North Carolina Central University law professor who followed the Peterson case very closely, said Thursday that he believes a new trial is warranted because blood spatter was a crucial part of the case.

"Deaver's testimony was the glue that pulled a lot of the theories together," he said. "Obviously, the jurors bought Deaver's story. If they had not, Michael Peterson would have been found not guilty. It was critical evidence."

Freda Black, a former Durham prosecutor who helped send Peterson to prison, said Wednesday that she "couldn't imagine" Deaver's work being questioned.

"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.

Superior Court Judge Jim Hardin, who was district attorney in 2003 and also prosecuted Peterson's case, did not return calls for comment.

Calls to Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline's office were also not returned.

23 Comments

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  • shortcake53 Aug 20, 2010

    Itsmyownopinion, wouldnt make any difference to my comment no matter whose name you used.

  • itsmyownopinion Aug 20, 2010

    "itsmyownopinion, I have managed to live for over 57 years without so much as a parking ticket, so no, I am not at all worried about being falsly accused of anything. But thanks for your concern."
    shortcake53

    Rather than using Richard Jewell as an example, perhaps I should have said Jesus.

  • wildcat Aug 20, 2010

    Peterson do not deserve a new trial. He killed his wife and another woman. It time he pays for his crimal action. He is guilty then as well as now. He is going no where since he is locked up for life.

  • shortcake53 Aug 20, 2010

    itsmyownopinion, I have managed to live for over 57 years without so much as a parking ticket, so no, I am not at all worried about being falsly accused of anything. But thanks for your concern.

  • itsmyownopinion Aug 20, 2010

    "...I can promise you it "wont be me next time" as I do not particapate in actions that would cause me to be on trial for anything. ..." shortcake53

    Does the name Richard Jewell ring a bell? He's just one of a countless number of people falsely accused of serious crimes. He got lucky, while many other innocent people have been convicted and received the death penalty.

  • shortcake53 Aug 20, 2010

    linu, I can promise you it "wont be me next time" as I do not particapate in actions that would cause me to be on trial for anything. Next, it is very disrespectful of you to deliberately misuse my name, no one is calling you names. Seems you cannot tolerate someone who may have a different opinion from you, I guess yours is the only one that counts. And I must say, your analogy of a relay runner makes absolutely no sense. "I have no brief for Peterson", what the heck does that mean?? I have my beliefs, you have yours. Try debating without resorting to insults.

  • linusnthn0 Aug 20, 2010

    sweetcakes, If an Olympic relay runner is found to be a cheat, his entire team has to return its medals. There is no victory based on cheating, and Deaver is a self-admitted cheat. Is a mane's freedom worth less than a medal?

    There were no eye witnesses, there was no murder weapon, despite the State's claims. A motive, no matter how credible to you, is no substitute for physical evidence, and the State's physical evidence was ONLY forensic. They had one fraud, in Saami Shaibani, they had another fraud (self-admitted) in Duane Deaver and Deaver's testimony underpinned the testimony of others, especially the Crime Scene Officers.

    I have no brief for Peterson. But I want to believe in the justice system, because one day I might be the one in the dock, and I don't want to even think about my chances if the State is prepared to let acknowledged cheating and foul play go uncorrected.

    What if it's you next time?

  • itsmyownopinion Aug 20, 2010

    Don't forget the cops in Durham had an ax to grind because Peterson had written some unflattering "stories" about them in the Herald Sun. Don't forget the corruption in the DA's office which was exposed in the Duke Lacrosse case. The much talked about "blow-poke" purported to be the murder weapon was found undisturbed, covered in cobwebs. How did that happen? That was almost a Perry Mason moment. The entire trial was TV drama, and don't get me started on Ms. Black. She was defeated in her bid for election after the trial, and I have a feeling this trial was a factor, and I hope she will be defeated again. I am not Peterson fan, but I believe he did not get a fair trial, and after the exposure of prosecution witness Deaver's habitual lying and the entire SBI evidence tampering/withholding Peterson deserves a new trial.

  • shortcake53 Aug 20, 2010

    The fact that the world was watching didnt convict OJ, so I doubt it was a factor in Petersons case. Peterson did not come up with a viable reason for many of the facts that came out, so I dont believe he was railroaded.

  • St Ives Aug 20, 2010

    I have always had the feeling this man was railroaded into jail and I think he deserves a fair and just trial. When the world is watching a trial as it was in his case I feel it forced the judge and frida to put on a good show and with the Nancy Grace court TV people living in the courthouse it just turned into a sideshow and I personally felt he was not guilty just from watching it all

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