Defense challenged Deaver at trial in 2003

December 15, 2011 

Michael Peterson's hearing for a new trial this month was not the first time his defense team had challenged the credentials of former State Bureau of Investigation agent Duane Deaver. In the 2003 trial, lawyers David Rudolf and Thomas Maher scoffed at Deaver's expertise but did not persuade Judge Orlando Hudson to exclude him from the trial.

A sample of The News & Observer's reporting from the time:

Aug. 14: "Rudolf argued that Deaver was no expert, but (District Attorney Jim) Hardin retorted that Rudolf's question (about whether Deaver had passed proficiency tests) was a straw man because no such testing exists in the United States. Deaver, Hardin said, 'has testified as an expert in 60 cases. They can't all be wrong.' "

Aug. 16: Deaver defends the experiments he used to form opinions about how Kathleen Peterson died, which included dropping a sponge, beating a sponge and a Styrofoam head, and stomping on bloody clothing.

"The witness candidly said he would have not have given an opinion without the experiment," Maher said. "The experiments are unscientific, and that makes them unreliable."

Hudson disagreed. "Each opinion is reliable and routinely used in his area of expertise," he said.

Aug. 20: "Rudolf asked, Did Deaver measure the amount of blood used in his experiments? Did he measure the impact force he applied with the metal rod? Did he take before-and-after photographs? Each time, Deaver said 'No.'

"In one experiment, Deaver struck the sponge to see whether he could replicate the bloodstain found on the inside right leg of Peterson's shorts. That led Rudolf to wonder, 'By the way, what is this?'

"The video shows Deaver flexing his right leg after the experiment, and SBI agent Suzi Barker looking at the inside of his thigh. Barker then throws up her hands, kicks up her heels and bounds away in an end-zone dance.

"Giggles floated through the courtroom. Deaver smiled for an instant, then his face melted into impassivity. Barker, he said, was excited that the experiment 'produced a result.' "

Aug. 25: "In his cross-examination, Rudolf has raised questions about Deaver's qualifications, his previous testimony, the integrity of his experiments, and his use of what Rudolf characterizes as outdated technology.

" 'I believe the kind of testimony that Duane Deaver gives is very dangerous,' Rudolf said in an interview. 'It is the essence of junk science, and I hope that someone will take a look at all the cases that he has testified in and re-examine the opinions he gave and the bases on which he claims to have reached those opinions.' "

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