Local News

Mike Peterson Appeal Set For April

Posted March 10, 2006 3:16 a.m. EST
Updated December 10, 2006 9:06 a.m. EST

— The Mike Peterson murder trial grabbed international headlines the first time around. Now, the state Court of Appeals must decide if the convicted killer deserves a new trial.

The Court of Appeals on Friday agreed to hear the Peterson case next month. The Durham novelist is serving a life sentence for the 2003 murder of his wife. Now, a panel of judges will determine if the admission of certain evidence may have biased jurors.

Kathleen Peterson's death in the staircase of her Durham home was the focus of the high profile case. But, a similar death case admitted as evidence is a source for appeal.

Elizabeth Ratliff, a family friend, was found dead at the bottom of a staircase in Germany 20 years ago. Mike Peterson was thought to be the last person to see both women alive, so prosecutors hoped to show a pattern of behavior. However, Peterson's attorney claims Ratliff died from natural causes and the case was not relevant to the Durham case.

Another other point of appeal is Peterson's alleged bisexuality. Male prostitute Brad Wolgamott testified how Peterson solicited him for sex. Prosecutors wanted to show problems with the Peterson's marriage. But once again, the convicted murderer's attorney believes the issue was irrelevant and may have biased jurors.

Peterson also faces a civil suit in his wife's death, plus a push to reopen the death of Ratliff. The appeals hearing on the murder conviction is set for April 18.