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Prosecutor In Mike Peterson Trial Sees No Reason For Appeal

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Mike Peterson
DURHAM, N.C. — Despite a possible appeal in the case, one of the former prosecutors involved in the trial said Peterson is where he should be -- prison.

After 54 days of testimony, 66 witnesses and more than 500 pieces of evidence led to a life sentence for Mike Peterson. Peterson was convicted for the murder of his wife, Kathleen Peterson, in December 2003. In recently filed court papers, Peterson's attorney Tom Maher points to several mistakes to overturn the verdict, but former prosecutor Freda Black disagrees.

"I believe he had a fair trial," she said.

With such a complex and high-profile case, Black said the prosecution dug deeper by double- and triple-checking facts.

"We wanted to be certain we did the best we could do and that we'd done all the research necessary," she said.

Maher claims evidence about Peterson's bisexuality was irrelevant and biased the jury. Black said the defense opened the door on the first day when they said the Petersons had the ideal marriage.

"To refute the soulmate issue that Mr. Rudolf brought up time and time again. We believed it was relevant to show it wasn't a typical couple or a typical marriage," Black said.

Public defender Shannon Tucker, who followed the trial, believes Maher has a solid argument based on another point, the Elizabeth Ratliff evidence.

Prosecutors told jurors about the death of the Peterson family friend because they said it showed a pattern with Peterson. Maher contends that because prosecutors couldn't prove Peterson killed Ratliff, it had no business in the courtroom.

"It did appear to be extremely prejudicial. I don't believe they ever substantiated a link or saying Mike Peterson was ever a suspect," Tucker said.

Tucker thinks Maher stands a good chance on appeal, but said that in the end, he may be his own worst enemy.

"His biggest obstacle is going to be what a great job he and his partner did in that trial. They were so wonderful. It's going to be hard to overcome the good job they did," Tucker said.

Shortly after Peterson's conviction, the one-time millionaire was declared indigent and given a court-appointed attorney paid for by the taxpayers. Maher was one of several private attorneys on the list and was given the job. It could be next spring before there is any ruling on Peterson's appeal.


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