RALEIGH, N.C. — A former Durham mayoral candidate convicted in the 2001 staircase death of his wife will have a new attorney when he faces a civil lawsuit next month.
Defense attorney Kerry Sutton, will represent Michael Peterson when the civil trial begins on June 19.
Peterson is named in a wrongful death civil lawsuit filed by his stepdaughter, Caitlin Atwater, who contends that Peterson maliciously assaulted her mother and caused her death.
Paramedics found Kathleen Peterson's body at the bottom of a staircase at the couple's Cedar Street mansion in Durham more than four years ago.
Although Peterson, who is serving a life sentence in prison, was declared indigent and claims to have no money, Atwater's attorney, Jay Trehy, compares the civil suit to a safeguard. He said his client wants to make sure Peterson never profits from his crime.
Unlike the criminal trial, which lasted more than three months and has been the focus of a handful of documentaries and books, the civil trial is expected to be much shorter. Trehy said it would focus on the relationship Atwater had with her mother and how Kathleen Peterson's death has had an effect on her -- both emotionally and financially.
Last month, one of Peterson's original defense attorneys, Tom Maher, argued before the North Carolina Court of Appeals for a retrial of Peterson's criminal case. The court, however, has yet to rule. Maher will still handle the appeal.
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