Michael Peterson faces December hearing

Michael Peterson
December 7, 2011 8:45:22 AM PST
Durham novelist and convicted killer Michael Peterson will get a hearing next month to try to prove he deserves a new trial.

In an appeal filed earlier this year, Peterson claims a SBI analyst lied about evidence that helped secure his conviction in 2003 on a charge he murdered his wife Kathleen.

Click here to read the appeal (.pdf)

Nearly 10 years since Peterson's conviction, Peterson's stepdaughter remains convinced he did it, and told ABC11 in an exclusive interview she hopes he does not win his appeal.

"It would be devastating," Caitlyn Atwater said.

Kathleen Peterson's body was found at the bottom of a stairwell in the couple's million-dollar mansion Dec. 9, 2001. According to investigators, she was beaten to death with a fireplace poker by her angry husband. Peterson says he didn't do it.

"I will never, ever, be able to convince some people that I'm innocent, and I realize that," he told ABC11.

But next month, Peterson will try to convince Durham Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson that he deserves a new trial amid allegations the SBI crime lab and veteran agent Duane Deaver - the key witness against Peterson - fabricated and withheld evidence in multiple cases.

An independent review of the SBI lab's work found that SBI agents helped prosecutors obtain convictions over a 16-year period by misrepresenting blood evidence and keeping critical notes from defense lawyers. Agent Deaver testified at an innocence hearing that the SBI had a policy of releasing reports to the court that said evidence showed an indication for the presence of blood, based on a first test. If a test to confirm the results came back negative, that information was in the agent's notes, but was not included in the court report.

Deaver has since been fired from the SBI and NC Attorney General Roy Cooper has made sweeping changes at the SBI. Deaver is appealing his firing.

Peterson claims the jury never would've believed Deaver's testimony if they knew about accusations that have been leveled against him since the 2003 trial.

In his interview with ABC11, Peterson called Deaver a liar.

"The poison was Duane Deaver and then people fell into line," he said.

Peterson claims the judge, the jury, and he stepdaughter Caitlyn Atwater were all duped.

"When you talking about being duped, I think that might be where I felt duped. Not because of being convinced of his guilt, but being convinced he was a harmless man who loved my mother," Atwater responded.

Atwater said she never questioned the sincerity of her mother's marriage to Peterson, but she recalls a man with moments of rage.

"My mother was in a house with a man with an outrageous temper that he kept very repressed, and I think that at some point, it just snapped," she offered.

Atwater said it's coming up on 10 years since her mother's death, and that's hard on her.

"To constantly have him fighting for these kind of asinine appeals and reaching and grasping at straws for any little thing that comes up, is just a reminder that there is no end to this," she said.

From theories an owl attacked Kathleen that ill-fated night, to a crowbar found in a neighbor's yard, Peterson has nearly exhausted his avenues for an appeal.

"I want to see the people I love. I want to see my grandson. I want to get on with the rest of my life and at my age, there can't be that much more," he said.

"I have to have faith that the justice system will ultimately prevail and that it hopefully, still will," said Atwater.

Peterson's hearing is set for December 5.

ABC11 reached out to both Deaver and the SBI for comment on this story.

The attorney general's office declined to comment saying it was not involved in Peterson's quest for a new trial.

Deaver's attorney also declined a request for comment saying neither he or his client are in a position to speak publically because of the upcoming hearing.

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