Mike Peterson granted new murder trial

ablythe@newsobserver.comJuly 16, 2013 

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

Michael Peterson, the Durham novelist who persuaded a Durham judge in 2011 to abandon his murder conviction and give him a new trial, will get that trial if an N.C. Court of Appeals ruling stands.

A three-judge panel released a ruling on Tuesday upholding the judge's order.

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 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 three-judge panel said in the Tuesday ruling:

"After careful review, we conclude that the evidence concerning Agent Deaver’s qualifications constitutes newly discovered evidence entitling defendant to a new trial. Thus, we affirm the trial court’s order."

In asking for a dismissal of the Peterson ruling, Cooney, the Charlotte defense attorney who representing him on appeal, 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 the state's appeal to reinstate the victim.

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.

Blythe: 919-836-4948

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