Local News

Son: Mike Peterson 'casualty of Durham legal system'

Posted November 20, 2008 5:43 p.m. EST
Updated November 20, 2008 9:04 p.m. EST

— The son of convicted killer Mike Peterson said in an open letter Thursday that his father is among the growing number of criminal defendants in Durham who have been failed by police, prosecutors and courts.

Clayton Peterson said he was writing the letter on behalf of his mother and siblings and that the family would continue to press for a new trial to clear his father's name.

Mike Peterson was convicted five years ago of first-degree murder in the Dec. 9, 2001, death of his wife, Kathleen Peterson.

Kathleen Peterson was found dead in a pool of blood at the bottom of a staircase in the couple’s Forest Hills mansion. Mike Peterson has maintained his wife died in an accidental fall.

Last week, a Virginia attorney filed a motion for a new trial, alleging prosecutorial and juror misconduct in the 2003 murder trial.

Attorney Jason Anthony, who practices in Richmond, Va., alleges in the motion that prosecutors withheld evidence of a tire iron during the murder trial, impairing the efforts of defense attorneys to argue that an intruder had killed Kathleen Peterson.

Calling his father "a casualty of the Durham legal system," Clayton Peterson said cases like that in which three Duke University lacrosse players were wrongly accused of sexual assault demonstrate that police and prosecutors are more interested in convictions than in justice.

"Unfortunately, this kind of story is nothing new in the city of Durham. It is discouraging to think that Durham’s residents may have grown accustomed to news of another grievous error in the legal system – a fault that should not have been, that must not happen again, that we pray will be remedied," he wrote.

Durham County District Attorney David Saacks denied any wrongdoing in the Peterson case, saying the tire iron was irrelevant to the prosecution. He also said rules in effect at the time didn't require prosecutors to turn over information about the tire iron to Mike Peterson's former attorneys.

Peterson, 65, is serving a life sentence at Nash Correctional Institution. The state Supreme Court upheld his conviction last year.