Michael Peterson argues against prosecutors' move to reinstate his murder conviction

ablythe@newsobserver.comMarch 6, 2013 


Michael Peterson stands outside his lawyer's office on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill Wednesday Dec. 21, 2011 shortly after he was released from house arrest. Peterson, 68 was released from prison after eight years last week when testimony by former SBI agent Duane Deaver was found to be perjured testimony by Judge Orlando Hudson.

CHUCK LIDDY — 2011 News & Observer file photo

CORRECTION: Michael Peterson's conviction date was corrected to Oct. 10, 2003, at 11:00 a.m. March 7, 2013.

RALEIGH -- Michael Peterson, the Durham novelist who persuaded a Durham judge in 2011 to abandon his murder conviction and give him a new trial, is arguing now that state prosecutors’ appeal of that decision should be dismissed.

Jim Cooney, the Charlotte attorney representing Peterson on the appeal, submitted the request to the state Court of Appeals this week.

Counsel for the state Attorney General’s office submitted documents to the appeals court in December seeking to reinstate the murder conviction that Orlando Hudson, Durham’s chief resident superior court judge, abandoned, arguing that such an action would save the state the expense of a new trial.

Peterson was found guilty on Oct. 10, 2003 of murdering his wife, Kathleen, in their Durham home.

One of the witnesses at that trial – often described as one of the longest in recent state history – was Duane Deaver, a State Bureau of Investigation blood analyst who was forced out of his job several years ago after an independent review of the state crime lab revealed problems with some of his cases.

In December 2011, when Hudson tossed out the murder conviction over the objections of Tracey Cline, Durham’s district attorney at the time, the judge ruled that Deaver conducted unscientific experiments and misled the jury about his experience and credentials.

Special Deputy Attorney General Robert Montgomery argued there was plenty of other evidence presented during the trial that would have led jurors to reach the same verdict without Deaver’s testimony.

The appeal is one of a series out of Durham that the state attorney general’s office has stepped in on since Cline issued a series of strongly worded rebukes of Hudson that eventually led to her ouster.

Hudson has been reversed by the appeals court on two of those cases. Cline has appealed her ouster.

In asking for a dismissal of the Peterson ruling, Cooney, the Charlotte defense attorney, argued that “the state would not be harmed by having to retry the defendant without using the false and perjured testimony of an SBI agent.”

Cooney further contended that a retrial would be an assurance that a new verdict was rendered fairly.

“The expense needed to come to that judgment is a small price to pay given that imprisonment for life is the penalty for this crime,” Cooney stated in his motion to dismiss.

Since his release in December 2011, Peterson has been suspended between a state of captivity and freedom.

Under the pre-trial release agreement, he must be in his home from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. and may not travel outside Durham, Wake or Orange counties without permission.

Blythe: 919-836-4948

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