Michael Peterson wins freedom from electronic monitoring

ablythe@newsobserver.comJuly 8, 2014 

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Michael Peterson during a hearing Dec. 9, 2011 at the Durham County courthouse.

CHUCK LIDDY — 2011 News & Observer file photo

— Michael Peterson, the Durham novelist suspended between a state of imprisonment and freedom for 2-1/2 years, persuaded a Durham Superior Court judge Tuesday to give him the liberty to move more freely through the Triangle.

Judge Orlando Hudson agreed to unlatch the electronic monitors locked around Peterson’s ankles. He must ask permission to leave the state. He has been ordered not to travel to the Northern Virginia metropolitan area where the family of his wife lives, according to the new conditions of his bond. If that cannot be avoided, pre-trial release service officials must notify the family.

Until Tuesday, Peterson had been subjected to a form of house arrest and electronic monitoring since he won a new murder trial in December 2011 – 937 days.

Peterson stands accused of killing his wife, Kathleen, a Nortel employee found dead at the base of a stairwell in their Durham home.

A Durham jury convicted him of murder in the case on Oct. 10, 2003, after one of the longest trials in North Carolina history.

But in December 2011, Hudson, Durham’s chief resident Superior Court judge, vacated the verdict that put Peterson behind bars for eight years.

The N.C. Court of Appeals issued a ruling in July 2013 upholding Hudson’s decision to grant Peterson a new trial.

And in December 2013, the N.C. Supreme Court declined to take up the case.

Now Durham prosecutors are weighing next steps, which could include another protracted trial, which would be costly for the state and the defendant. They’ve also weighed whether to negotiate a plea deal.

The verdict was vacated after defense lawyers brought forward evidence about one of the prosecution’s expert witnesses.

That witness, Duane Deaver, a former State Bureau of Investigation blood analyst, 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.

Hudson ruled that Deaver conducted unscientific experiments and misled the jury about his experience and credentials.

Kathleen Peterson was found dead Dec. 9, 2001, and prosecutors went to trial without a murder weapon and with no clear motive for her death.

Mike Peterson maintains that he did not murder his wife.

His wife’s family was in court Tuesday, arguing against the changes to Peterson’s bond conditions.

Blythe: 919-836-4948; Twitter: @AnneBlythe1

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