Peterson Verdict: What They're Saying
Posted October 13, 2003 12:33 p.m. EDT
Updated December 10, 2006 8:41 a.m. EST
DURHAM, N.C. — Here is what people involved in the Mike Peterson murder trial had to say after Friday's guilty verdict for Peterson, who was on trial for first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Kathleen. The defense team has appealed.
MARGARET RATLIFF BLAIR
(Elizabeth Ratliff's Sister, who contacted Durham police about similarities between her sister's death and Kathleen Peterson's)
"When I heard it (the verdict), I screamed. My son was with me, and I said: "It's over." When I saw Margaret and Martha (her nieces), I felt their pain. Another loss in their lives when they've had so many losses. I think words can't express . . . I love them so much, and it went so deep. I know how horrible this must be, but I keep thinking about my sister. You can't forget that, and the same with Kathleen. I could never be convinced that she fell down the stairs. It just didn't add up. It's a relief in a sense, but the pain is still there. So many lives have been affected by the actions of Mike Peterson, so many feelings of betrayal by this one man."
(Male Escort Who Corresponded With Mike Peterson And Testified For Prosecution)
"Too many things working together indicate to me the guy is guilty as sin."
"I called them just to say congratulations on putting a monster behind bars."
-- On calling the prosecution team led by Jim Hardin after finding out the verdict.
"Because the defense, in their opening statement, had said what a perfect marriage -- an idyllic marriage -- this couple had, I think it certainly gave the prosecution an avenue to bring out these e-mails and put me on the stand."
-- On the relevance of his testimony, which the defense argued was irrelevant to the case.
(Durham District Attorney)
"A little bit of shock, quite frankly."
-- On what his reaction was when the verdict was announced.
"On reflection, I think it was a good thing for us. It does take on a different perspective once you see it in person as compared to the photographs."
-- On the defense's decision to take the jury to Mike Peterson's house and show them the stairwell in which Kathleen Peterson dies, a decision Hardin said benefited the prosecution.
"We would expect him to appeal. That was evidence we felt was relevant to the case. There is no reason to jeopardize the case unless you are in a good legal position to argue that it is admissible. We will leave it to the court of appeals to decide."
-- On the defense team's appeal and its claim that evidence about the death of Elizabeth Ratliff and Mike Peterson's sexuality were irrelevant to the case.
"I don't have any idea what the German authorities will do. We will fully cooperate with them to any extent that they think is appropriate. But I don't think you can walk away from this case without feeling some vindication for her and some justice for her. Certainly we had to present quite a bit of information and evidence about the circumstances of her death as part of this case. And whether Mr. Peterson is charged for that is outside of our control. But I'm sure her sisters and her family feel like this process was going to give Elizabeth some justice."
-- On the evidence that Elizabeth Ratliff, a former friend of Mike Peterson's, was murdered in Germany 18 years and its relevance on this case.
(Lead Investigator, Durham Police Department)
"This verdict shows that we are not idiots. We know how to do our job, and we do it well."
(Assistant District Attorney)
"We still believed it was some type of instrument like that. The jury didn't have enough information about who found it, where, when. I still don't know that that is the one Candace gave Kathleen."
-- On the blowpoke that the defense team found in Mike Peterson's garage after prosecutors intimated that a blowpoke was the murder weapon and was missing from the house. Kathleen's sister, Candace Zamperini, had given a blowpoke to Kathleen as a gift.
"Because the information about Brad, the e-mails, those things were in the bottom right-hand drawer, along with other phone bills and things that had recently come into the home. We were under the belief that she most likely had opened that drawer for some reason, and the information about Brad was right there on top. We believe that she probably confronted him about that, an argument ensued, and she was beaten."
-- On what might have led Mike Peterson to kill his wife on Dec. 9, 2001, after Kathleen sat at Mike's desk in their home to wait for an e-mail.
(Lead Defense Attorney)
"There's no comfort there at all. What there is is hope. What I tried to tell them, and I think they heard me, is that no one is giving up on Michael. We think that there are substantial grounds for appeal, and I think we're going to win an appeal. And I just wanted them to know that we weren't giving up. We didn't want them to give up, and that if we win the appeal, the next trial will be very different because a lot of this evidence will simply not be admissible."
-- On what he said to the daughters of Mike Peterson after the verdict.
"I think that Mr. Shaibani is the low point of any criminal trial. The one thing good, perhaps, that will come out of this trial is that Mr. Shaibani will no longer be running around the country with junk science getting innocent people convicted."
-- On getting a prosecution witness's testimony thrown out after he committed perjury on the stand.
"It's devastating. I don't take what I do lightly. It's not just a job for me. I believe in Michael's innocence. I continue to believe in Michael's innocence. I know he's innocent. And so, to see that happen to a person that I've grown close with over the months, to know what it's going to do to his daughters and to the other people in his family, it is just really, really hard to deal with."
-- On watching Mike Peterson get led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.
"We didn't consider it very deeply. We felt that Mike, in fact, did testify through that 911 call. I don't know of any more powerful testimony that someone can give then what they are saying at the moment they find their wife at the bottom of the stairs. And if the jurors didn't feel that was from the heart and didn't feel that was truthful, I can't imagine that he could have added anything from the witness stand."
-- On the defense team's decision to not have Mike Peterson testify
"I don't think either of us knows for sure what that visit did. I will tell you that, from our perspective, the pictures were misleading, and when you got into that stairway, it was much tougher to believe that anyone got beaten to death in that stairway than it was from the photos. Hindsight is wonderful, but you make the best judgments you can make."
-- On the defense's decision to take the jury to Mike Peterson's home and show them the stairwell in which Kathleen Peterson died, a decision that DA Jim Hardin said helped the prosecution.
"What was going though my mind (as I left the courtroom) was the fact that my belief in the system has really been shaken by this verdict. I didn't just tell the jury that I thought there was reasonable doubt, I believe in my soul that there is ample reasonable doubt in this case. I respect the jury's verdict, but I continue to believe that, and it shakes your system when a jury comes back in a case where you know there's reasonable doubt and says guilty."
"I believe there's a lot more than just reasonable doubt in this case. I, frankly, don't understand the verdict, and you'll have to talk to the jurors about what their thought process was."
"This (verdict) came out of left field. In my mind, when the prosecution spends three months telling the jury that your client beat somebody to death with a blowpoke, and you bring in the blowpoke, if that is not reasonable doubt, I don't know what reasonable doubt is."
"The Ratliff information was very, very damaging. I think the pornography and male escort evidence was very, very damaging. And the shame of it is, none of that had anything to do with what happened on that stairway. This trial should have been about what happened in that stairway and not what happened in Germany 18 years ago."
-- On the evidence presented about Elizabeth Ratliff's death and the testimony of a male escort Mike Peterson had set up an encounter with.
"Michael's major concern is with his kids. That's almost all we talked about, his kids and what impact this is going to have on them and how they will get through this. That's really all he wanted to talk about."
-- On a conversation Rudolf had with Mike Peterson before Peterson was transported to Central Prison in Raleigh.
"What I told him is that this is a battle, but it's not the war. I think there are major, major issues to raise on appeal. Obviously, the appellate process is a lengthy process, but I think it's important for him and his family to keep their eyes on that ball, because -- in my mind -- this is far from over."
-- On Rudolf's intention to appeal, a process that could take anywhere from nine months to two years.
(Kathleen Peterson's Sister)
"This was never about winning or losing. This was about the fact that a woman fought for her life and was beaten to death in a stairwell. I am thankful to God. I am thankful to the Durham Police Department, Jim Hardin and Freda Black for standing up for my sister. Thank goodness we live in a country where a woman is beaten to death and people actually do care."
(Kathleen Peterson's Sister)
"The moment I saw that stairwell and I saw that blood, I said: 'This doesn't look right.' Yet people closest to Kathleen in that house wanted to shove it down my throat that she fell down the stairs and made that kind of scene.
"It was two months before I saw her autopsy photos, and I didn't know about the luminol footprints and the wine glasses, and the paper towels. And his shoes and socks were off? It's all highly suspicious."
-- On what Campell considered perhaps the most pivotal evidence in the case.