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Robert Petrick Had Fair Trial, Appeals Court Rules

The North Carolina Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of a Durham man found guilty of killing his wife in 2003.

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Robert Petrick (10/31/05)
RALEIGH, N.C. — Convicted murderer Robert Petrick received a fair trial free from errors when he was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2003 death of his wife, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

Petrick's attorney argued before the appeals court last month that his client did not have all the information he needed to make an informed decision to serve as his own counsel in his 2005 murder trial. Petrick and his court-appointed attorney had disagreed on a defense strategy.

But in a unanimous decision, the court ruled the presiding judge repeatedly apprised the defendant of his rights and that on two occasions, he signed waivers of his right of counsel.

"The trial court, in both instances engage in and applied the appropriate statutory inquiry and safeguards to defendant's election to proceed," Judge John M. Tyson wrote.

Petrick was accused of killing his wife, Durham Symphony cellist Janine Sutphen, and disposing of her body in Raleigh's Falls Lake.

He reported her missing in January 2003, and several months later, fishermen found her body wrapped in a tarp and tied in duct tape. Authorities said Sutphen was suffocated and wrapped in sleeping bags with her legs chained.

The appeals court also found that the judge complied with law when he allowed testimony involving a cadaver dog and other testimony of Petrick's past.

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