Peterson's children ask for new trial

August 19, 2010 

Citing The News & Observer's series on the SBI, the children of Mike Peterson, convicted in Durham of murdering his wife, want the state to overturn his conviction and give him a new trial.

The Peterson case, which included a sensational trial and nationally broadcast documentaries, included important testimony from SBI agent Duane Deaver, whose work in other cases is now in serious question. Deaver was suspended from his job at the SBI on Wednesday.

Neither the SBI's nor Deaver's work on the Peterson case has been the subject of questions raised in either The N&O's series or an independent audit.

Still, the Peterson children said that blood splatter experiments conducted by the SBI's Deaver "clearly show an attempt to re-create a desired outcome rather than to examine all possibilities. His experiments made a mockery of good science and objective testing protocols."

Peterson is serving a life sentence for the 2001 slaying. The prosecution had alleged during the trial that Peterson's wife, Kathleen, died from blows by a fireplace tool. But no weapon was produced, and the defense found the Petersons' fireplace tool, covered in cobwebs in a garage, in the midst of the trial.

"It is impossible to overestimate how crucial Deaver's testimony was at the trial," the children wrote. "Despite the objections of the defense, which vigorously questioned his qualifications, knowledge and expertise, he testified over eight days."

The letter was signed by Clayton and Rebecca Peterson of Baltimore, Md., Todd Peterson, Margaret Ratliff and Martha Ratliff.

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