DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Michael Peterson, the Durham novelist convicted in 2003 of first-degree murder in his wife’s death and then released from jail 8 years later, was in court Monday for a motions hearing.
The novelist made headlines around the world in 2001 after he was accused of killing his wife, Kathleen.
Kathleen’s body was found in a back staircase at the Peterson’s Durham home. Nearly two weeks later, Peterson, who says he found her body, was indicted for murder.
He was found guilty in 2003, only for the conviction to be overturned after it was determined that a blood analyst misled jurors on the strength of the evidence.
That analyst, Duane Deaver with the SBI, was found to have repeatedly aided prosecutors of obtaining convictions over a 16-year period, mostly by misrepresenting blood evidence and keeping critical notes from defense attorneys. A government-ordered inquest is what uncovered the findings.
The SBI fired Deaver after an audit found he falsely represented evidence in 34 cases.
Judge Orlando Hudson then granted Peterson’s lawyer’s motion for a new trial on Dec. 14, 2011. Peterson was released from Durham County jail on Dec. 16, 2011 on $300,000 bail and ordered to house arrest.
On July 16, 2013, the North Carolina Court of Appeals issued a ruling saying that Peterson should get a new trial.
On Monday, his attorneys filed three motions about the case and presentation of evidence and current condition of evidence.
Evidence presented in the case in 2003 was turned over the clerk’s office. Defense attorneys said investigators took photos in December that show evidence has been tampered with since 2003.
Archie Smith, the clerk of superior court, says the clerk’s office is responsible for holding evidence.
“The evidence was not assigned to any one deputy or assistant clerk. It was the property of the clerk’s office,” Smith said.
He said it is against the office’s policy to tamper with evidence after it is stored.
“The evidence would be maintained in the packaging in which it was left at the time the trial was concluded,” Smith said.