State asks for Supreme Court review of Michael Peterson case
Prosecutors have asked the North Carolina Supreme Court to overturn a Court of Appeals decision for Michael Peterson to be tried again for allegedly killing his wife, Kathleen.
In October 2003, a Durham County jury found Peterson guilty of first-degree murder in the death of his wife at their mansion in Durham. His wife's bloody body was found at the bottom of a staircase in the home, and Peterson claimed during his high-profile trial that she had fallen down the steps. The jury found him guilty, with a life sentence.
During a hearing about "newly discovered evidence" in May 2012, the evidence showed that one of the State's witnesses, Duane Deaver from the SBI, had testified inaccurately about his qualifications and experience during the murder trial. Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson vacated Peterson's conviction and ordered a new trial
The Court of Appeals affirmed Hudson's order last month.
In asking for a review of the Court of Appeals decision, the State asserts that the decision conflicts with the Supreme Court’s previous decisions regarding newly discovered evidence.
"This Court should review whether the Court of Appeals correctly held the evidence amounted to newly discovered evidence entitling defendant to a new trial," the petition states.
Newly discovered evidence must be of a nature that a different result probably will be reached at a new trial, the petition cittes the Supreme Court as ruling in another case.
The petition states it is not probable that a jury would have reached a different result at trial because if Kathleen Peterson did not die from an accidental fall, then it was murder, and there were no other issues at trial about who the perpetrator was.
"Any conclusion that Deaver was the only or even the crucial witness that proved first-degree murder is plain wrong," the petition states.
"The State had not one, but four, independent medical examiners ... who testified that this was not an accident and was instead a homicide by blunt force trauma," the petition states.
Defense experts could not explain the lack of other injuries on the victim's body, the petition states. She had no wounds or bruising to her torso, back, rib cage, spine, shoulders, buttocks, knees or legs, and that evidence does not point to an accidental fall, the petition states.
The blood evidence on the steps also points to a cleanup effort, and Deaver's testimony was not necessary to show that, the petition states.
The petition also points out errors in the Court of Appeals ruling, which said it was the State's theory that the victim had been struck in a manner to cause her to fall down a winding staircase.
The winding staircase was the main staircase, and the victim was found at the bottom of another set of stairs, the petition states.
"And more importantly, it was never the State's theory of the case she had fallen down the stairs at all, only that she was attacked at the bottom of the stairway, in or near the landing two steps up from the hallway, precisely where her body was found," the petition states.
"Second, the defense theory was not simply that of an 'accidental fall'... but instead a much more incredible series of events," the petition states. "While defendant claimed to the 911 operator that Kathleen had fallen down 15 to 20 stairs, he abandoned this claim at trial and there was no evidence of it.
"Rather the theory he pursued at trial was that Kathleen had slipped and fallen at or near the bottom of the steps or landing, had either passed out or was stationary for a long enough period to bleed out onto the floor to such a degree that when she awoke, she then continued to slip around in her own blood, falling several times until she caused each of her distinct injuries," the petition states.
The case is significant to the law in North Carolina, the petition states
"Regardless of what anyone thinks of defendant or Duane Deaver, the courts of this state should follow the law as it has been established by our Constitution, our legislature and our courts," the petitions states.