Raleigh, N.C. — The state Attorney General's Office on Friday asked the North Carolina Supreme Court to determine whether novelist and one-time Durham mayoral candidate Mike Peterson should get a new trial in his wife's 2001 death.
After almost a decade in prison, Peterson was granted a new trial in December 2011 when Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson ruled that a key prosecution witness gave false and misleading testimony during Peterson's 2003 murder trial, depriving him of his right to a fair trial.
Last month, the state Court of Appeals unanimously upheld Hudson's ruling. The unanimous decision means that the Supreme Court isn't obligated to hear the state's appeal.
"Review is merited because the decision conflicts with decisions of this court regarding newly discovered evidence, and it involves principles of major significance to the jurisprudence of this state in that it fundamentally changes the law regarding newly discovered evidence," Special Deputy Attorney General Robert Montgomery wrote in the appeal.
Kathleen Peterson was found dead in a pool of blood at the bottom of a staircase in the Petersons' upscale Durham home on Dec. 9, 2001. Prosecutors were never able to establish a clear motive and didn't find a murder weapon, and Mike Peterson has long denied any involvement in her death.
Hudson ruled that former State Bureau of Investigation blood analyst Duane Deaver misled jurors about his expertise and used questionable tests on evidence found in the Peterson home.
Deaver was fired by the SBI two years ago amid an independent review of suspect practices at the state crime lab.
Montgomery argued that evidence related to Deaver's qualifications as an expert shouldn't be considered new evidence. He noted that the Supreme Court ruled in an 1893 case that evidence discrediting a witness couldn't be considered enough to merit new trial.
He also argued that there was enough other evidence presented against Peterson to win a conviction even without Deaver's suspect testimony.
The Supreme Court also could kick the case back to Hudson for a new hearing, Montgomery suggested, noting that prosecutors weren't allowed to question witnesses during the 2011 hearing as to whether other evidence in the case supported the theory that Peterson killed his wife.
Peterson has remained under house arrest in Durham since that hearing awaiting a new trial. Sources have told WRAL News that Durham County prosecutors plan to retry him, rather than dismissing the case or negotiating a plea deal.