Local News

Group files complaint against Peterson prosecutors

Posted December 9, 2008 6:56 p.m. EST
Updated December 10, 2008 11:37 a.m. EST

— A Durham group has filed a complaint with the North Carolina State Bar against two former prosecutors who sent novelist Mike Peterson to prison for life.

The Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong claims former District Attorney Jim Hardin and former Assistant District Attorney Freda Black withheld exculpatory evidence – information that could be used to clear a suspect of the charges against him –f rom Peterson's defense attorneys during his 2003 murder trial.

Peterson, who has exhausted all appeals in the case, is serving a life sentence for the Dec. 9, 2001, death of his wife, Kathleen Peterson. She was found dead in a pool of blood at the bottom of a staircase in the couple's home. He has maintained she died in an accidental fall.

Last month, a Virginia attorney filed a motion for a new trial, saying Peterson's attorneys did not know about a tire iron that a neighbor found in his yard and turned over to police. Had they known about, the attorney argued, it could have changed the outcome of the trial.

Investigators never found a murder weapon, but prosecutors argued it could have been a fireplace blow poke seen previously in the couple's home.

Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson, who presided in the case, has agreed to hear arguments on the matter, but no date has been set.

Black, who is now in private practice, was unaware of the complaint. Hardin, who is now a Superior Court judge, could not be reached for comment.

Gov. Mike Easley appointed Nifong to replace Hardin when he took the bench in 2005.

Nifong was disbarred last year for withholding DNA evidence from defense attorneys in his prosecution of three Duke University lacrosse players whom state prosecutors later exonerated.