Local News

Judge Allows Autopsy Photos, Sexual Evidence In Petrick Trial

Posted November 6, 2005 1:39 a.m. EST

— A miscommunication between court officials and Raleigh's Central Prison was to blame for Robert Petrick showing up two hours late for the first day of his murder trial.

But once inside the courtroom, Petrick wasted no time making known more than a dozen pretrial motions before jury selection got under way.

"I'd prefer there be no cameras," Petrick said to Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson Monday afternoon. "I am, as you are well aware, a novice at this and it's going to be difficult enough to prepare my defense without feeling like I'm performing for a media circus."

Petrick, who is currently serving an 11-year sentence for fraud, is defending himself against accusations that he killed his wife, Janine Sutphen, in 2003. Sutphen, a cellist for the Durham Symphony, disappeared in January 2003.

Four months later, fishermen found her body floating in Falls Lake in Raleigh. She had been tied up in chains, wrapped in blankets and bound in duct tape. Her body was swollen from the months under water.

Hudson denied Petrick's request to ban cameras, but the defendant had more than a dozen other requests, including a motion that would keep jurors from hearing about sexual items found in his home after Sutphen was reported missing.

Prosecutors want to refer to an adult film found in the house and tell jurors about e-mail and other items found on Petrick's computer that shed light on Petrick's sex life.

Assistant District Attorney Mitch Garrell explained they found evidence Petrick had been involved with other women during his marriage to Sutphen.

"The defendant was having more than one affair with more than one woman," Garrell told the judge.

Petrick also argued against jurors seeing autopsy photos of his wife.

"The only reason for submitting them is shock value of the jury," he told the judge.

But prosecutors argued the pictures would be helpful in proving their case and their belief that Petrick planned his wife's death. They say the pictures prove the death was premeditated.

Hudson agreed with the prosecution on the autopsy photos and sexual evidence, but deferred a ruling on Petrick's possible involvement in witchcraft. Petrick worries the jurors will be prejudiced against him if they hear about it.

After the motions hearing, a pool of 106 potential jurors were given questionnaires with 48 questions. Lawyers want to know how much each person already knows about the high-profile murder investigation.

Prosecutors have a witness list of nearly 100 potential witnesses. The defense plans to call less than 10.

The trial is expected to last two to three weeks.