State Bureau of Investigation records of former agent Duane Deaver's cases show that Deaver had not done any work involving people hurt or killed in falls when he testified at the murder trial of Durham novelist Michael Peterson, according to testimony Tuesday.
The question of a fall was key to Peterson's conviction for murdering his wife, Kathleen Peterson, who was found at the bottom of a bloodstained staircase in their Forest Hills mansion.
The prosecution argued that Peterson beat his wife on the staircase and let her bleed to death. Peterson's lawyers argued that Kathleen Peterson died in an accidental fall after drinking and taking Valium.
Deaver testified in 2003 that he had done 15 cases where a fall was reported.
"Probably five or six of those times I was in agreement that a fall was involved," Deaver testified in 2003. "The rest of those, I was not in agreement that a fall was involved, or created the spatters, the patterns that were seen there."
On Tuesday, Ron Guerette, a private investigator for Peterson, testified that he had read every page of Deaver's reports and files provided by the SBI.
"I checked every word on every page," Guerette said. "The word fall never occurred."
Deaver testified as the state's foremost expert on the interpretation of bloodstain evidence, and his expert opinions were crucial to the jury's deliberation and verdict. He testified at trial that he worked 500 cases involving bloodstain pattern analysis, had written 200 reports and testified in 60 cases.
But an SBI search of its case files located 54 cases in which Deaver observed bloodstains and 36 cases where he provided an opinion on bloodstain pattern analysis, according to records turned over to Peterson's lawyer, David Rudolf.
Peterson is seeking a new trial, arguing that Deaver has a history of fabricating evidence of guilt, hiding evidence of innocence and tailoring his testimony to fit prosecutors' theories.
The hearing is before Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson, who presided over the 2003 trial. In considering the request for a new trial, Hudson must decide whether Deaver misled him and the jury and, if so, whether Deaver's testimony affected the jury's verdict.
On Tuesday morning, a nationally recognized expert testified that Deaver's work did not meet the accepted standards of bloodstain pattern analysis at the time.
Tom Bevel, author of the textbook "Bloodstain Pattern Analysis," disagreed with Deaver's methodology and opinions.
Deaver testified at trial that his examination of the staircase allowed him to identify three points in the staircase where a weapon came into contact with Kathleen Peterson's head.
One, for example, was 11 inches above a particular step, 2 inches from the north wall and 8 inches from the east wall. Deaver used a technique known as "stringing" to determine the trajectories of the various blood drops in the staircase.
No acceptable bloodstain pattern analyst would testify that they can identify a point in space of the impact, Bevel said. The accepted term in 2003 and today is an area in space - for example, a sphere-shaped area with a diameter of 12 inches.
Bevel also criticized Deaver's failure to photograph his work at the crime scene and to make detailed drawings that would allow peers to review his work.
Deaver also conducted 15 experiments at the SBI lab seeking to re-create the blood spatter in the staircase. A retired expert from the Tennessee Forensic Laboratory criticized those experiments last week as proving nothing.
District Attorney Tracey Cline said she would call two witnesses today, which could be the last day of the hearing. Neither she nor Rudolf plans to call Deaver.