Local News

State: Judge wrong in granting Mike Peterson new trial

Posted December 10, 2012

— Almost a year after Durham novelist and one-time mayoral candidate Mike Peterson was granted a new trial, the North Carolina Attorney General's Office is arguing that his murder conviction should be reinstated.

Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson ruled last Dec. 14 that a key prosecution witness in Peterson's 2003 murder trial gave false and misleading testimony, which deprived him of his right to a fair trial.

After eight years in prison, Peterson has spent the last year under house arrest in Durham, awaiting a retrial on charges that he killed 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 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.

The Attorney General's Office has appealed Hudson's decision, and Special Deputy Attorney General Robert Montgomery filed a brief last week outlining the state's argument that the judge was wrong to throw out Peterson's conviction.

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, who was fired by the SBI almost two years ago amid an independent review of suspect practices at the state crime lab, was a key prosecution witness in Peterson's trial.

Mike Peterson in court Appeals process moving slowly in Peterson case

In his 89-page brief, Montgomery said there was plenty of other evidence presented during the trial – four medical examiners said Kathleen Peterson was beaten to death and didn't die as a result of a fall – and jurors would have reached the same verdict without Deaver's testimony.

He also argued that Hudson wouldn't allow prosecutors to question witnesses during a week-long hearing last year about their opinions of Deaver's testimony or present their own experts, who would have backed up his findings.

Montgomery also filed a writ of certiorari in case the North Carolina Court of Appeals determines the state has no grounds to appeal Hudson's ruling. The writ, which some legal experts compared to a Hail Mary pass, calls upon the court to review the case and Hudson's actions on its own, noting that a reversal would preclude the time and expense of a new trial.

Jim Cooney, Peterson's attorney, said he would file a response to the state's arguments by early March.

If the appeal is denied, Durham County District Attorney Leon Stanback would have to decide whether to retry Peterson, dismiss the case or try to reach a plea agreement.

55 Comments

This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • riverlover Dec 13, 2012

    Questionable comment.

    How many people can identify who they see in traffic while driving 35 mph to 70 mph. Especially a car they aren't familiar with.

    Most cars have enough tint on the windows it's difficult to see inside.
    ConservativeVoter

    Never did I say I saw him speeding down the road...I know the family personally..I do know what Michael Peterson looks like. Two of the times I saw him he was parking the car and one of the times he spoke to me "hello" while walking past me in the parking lot. It was DEFINITELY Michael Peterson.

  • piene2 Dec 13, 2012

    "More money, borrowed from China, Wasted
    oleguy"

    It is amusing that some people will use any story at all to hawk their childish political rants.

  • ConservativeVoter Dec 12, 2012

    "DA's also eliminate witnesses who question LEO's.
    ConservativeVoter"

    Meant DA's eliminate jury candidates who question what LEO's and DA's say during the jury selection process.

  • ConservativeVoter Dec 12, 2012

    "What misconduct? The case has been reviewed by the NC Supreme Court and no misconduct was shown. Peterson is a murderer... convicted for one murder; he got a skate on the first murder. seankelly15""

    Aside from the fact that Deaver falsified evidence in Peterson's trial and almost 200 trials.

    Deaver was known as the go to guy for DA's looking to get evidence to convict someone.

  • ConservativeVoter Dec 12, 2012

    "Re "Juries are instructed that expert witnesses especially law enforcement are there to provide evidence and that their testimony shouldn't be questioned." by ConservativeVoter

    This statement is factually incorrect.

    It is standard juror instruction that the testimony of ALL witnesses should be held to the same standards, i.e. the jury can believe all, some, or none of the testimony of each witness.

    The only difference is that a court-qualified expert witness IS allowed to express an opinion, which a "normal" witness cannot do.

    No judge in his right mind would ever instruct a jury that the testimony of ANY witness "shouldn't be challenged."

    Let's at least get the facts correct here, please.

    FE"

    Obviously you've never been on a jury.

    The DA spends lots of time explaining the credentials of the law enforcement and state witnesses explaining why they are experts in their field and why their opinion should be accepted as fact.

    DA's also eliminate witnesses who question LEO's.

  • ConservativeVoter Dec 12, 2012

    "When it is perceived that a wealthy, well-known, white man receives poor/bad justice it's newsworthy. When a poor, unknown black/Latino man received poor/bad justice, no one even notices. Very interesting.
    2thec"

    When all else fails, play the race card.

  • ConservativeVoter Dec 12, 2012

    "It was unethical to allow this man to, a convicted murderer to walk out of prison basically a free man to do as he please (yeah, yeah I know he has an ankle bracelet) but it does not matter, my son works at the YMCA and saw Mr. Peterson there often. This would have never happened with the "average joe". Even folk who are granted a new trial have to stay in jail until the new trial, especially when it is a murder case. There is nothing to indicate this man did not kill his wife, let alone the suspicous murder of his so called friend that he just so happen to have been the last to see and die in the same manner as his wife. This is pretty much a no-brainer!
    lavjt"

    Problem is that there was no evidence linking Peterson to the murder other than the evidence that Deaver falsified.

  • kindness4 Dec 12, 2012

    I could be real wrong, but I swear I've seen him (Peterson) driving around Durham in a little silver sports car. House arrest means not confined to one's house and permits limited travel. If it wasn't him...he's got a twin.

  • ConservativeVoter Dec 12, 2012

    "What "came out" about Deaver came from liberal, anti-law enforcement, attorneys and the News and Observer. Personally, I trust Deaver more than Let 'em go Orlando Hudson, these bleeding heart attorneys and the N&O.
    disgusted2010"

    Deaver was known for falsifying lab results. He was known as the go to guy for DA's looking to get an easy conviction.

    As they say, figures don't lie but liars sure do figure.

    An independent investigation found that Deaver was guilty of falsifying lab results in lots of cases.

  • piene2 Dec 11, 2012

    ""piene2 - "If one deletes all the misconduct on the part of the prosecution, there is no way mister Peterson would have been convicted."

    What misconduct? The case has been reviewed by the NC Supreme Court and no misconduct was shown. Peterson is a murderer... convicted for one murder; he got a skate on the first murder.
    seankelly15"

    Aside from the fact that prosecution witnesses gave false and misleading testimony, I guess not much. Lying on the witness stand is a definite no-no, is it not?

More...