Local News

Judge denies Mike Peterson's request for new trial

Posted March 10, 2009 10:47 a.m. EDT
Updated March 10, 2009 12:12 p.m. EDT

— Convicted killer Mike Peterson won't get another day in court after all.

Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson on Tuesday denied Peterson's motion for a new trial based on allegations that prosecutors withheld evidence in his 2003 murder trial.

Peterson, 65, 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.

Richmond, Va., attorney Jason Anthony filed a motion on Peterson's behalf in November, alleging prosecutors never disclosed evidence that a tire iron had been found in a neighbor's yard after Kathleen Peterson's death. Peterson's former defense attorneys could have used that evidence to argue that an intruder had killed Kathleen Peterson, Anthony said.

Investigators never found a murder weapon, and prosecutors argued during the trial that Peterson killed his wife with an instrument similar to a fireplace blow poke.

The state Attorney General's Office, which is handling the case because of the allegations of misconduct by Durham County prosecutors, said in its response to the motion that the tire iron was irrelevant to the case.

Peterson's defense team could have presented an “unknown intruder” defense without the tire iron, the state said. Also, tests conducted on the tire iron failed to link it to Kathleen Peterson's death.

Prosecutors have maintained that legal rules in effect at the time of the trial didn't require them to turn over information about the tire iron to the defense, and the Attorney General's Office charged that Peterson wants to try another theory in the case because his first one did not convince a jury.

Anthony said he plans to continuing pressing for a new trial for Peterson, declining to be more specific.

"It’s a case we’ve invested tremendous resources in, and we are moving upwards," he said.