Michael Peterson could walk out of prison Thursday

December 15, 2011 2:56:14 AM PST
A Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday that Michael Peterson will get another chance to convince a jury he is innocent.

The Durham novelist was convicted of killing his wife 10 years ago.

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 has said he didn't do it and that his wife likely died in a fall.

Peterson filed an appeal earlier this year seeking a new trial based on alleged SBI crime lab mistakes. Peterson's defense attorney David Rudolf said that a former SBI blood spatter analyst should not have testified in Peterson's 2003 trial.

SBI veteran Duane Deaver was a key witness against Peterson. He was fired earlier this year after an independent 2010 review commissioned by N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper found 34 cases where Deaver either misreported test results, withheld results that could have helped the defendant or overstated the strength of the evidence to the benefit of prosecutors.

Nationally recognized experts in bloodstain pattern analysis testified that Deaver used antiquated techniques and that he gave opinions before the jury that were not justified by a scientific examination of the evidence.

In his closing argument Wednesday, Rudolf said Deaver's lies violated Peterson's right to a fair trial.

"There is no way to sugarcoat it," Rudolf said. "Deaver lied to this court and this jury multiple times."

Judge Orlando Hudson, who presided over the 2003 trial, ruled that Deaver misled jurors in the Peterson case and granted the defense request for a new trial.

Four of Peterson's children were in the front row of the courtroom when the judge announced his decision. He blew them a kiss as several members if the family sobbed with joy.

Judge Hudson ruled Peterson can be released on $300,000 bond, but he must be under house arrest. He must also surrender his passport.

Peterson's novels include the 1990 "A Time of War," an in-the-trenches look at the Vietnam War, and a 1995 sequel, "A Bitter Peace."

At last check, Peterson was being held at the Durham County Jail. His attorney says Peterson could walk out of jail as early as Thursday.

Wednesday evening, Deaver's attorney, Phillip Isely, released this statement: "We respectfully disagree with Judge Hudson's belief that our client committed perjury. My client, Duane Deaver, did not commit perjury or mislead the court in anyway."

Former prosecutor Freda Black spoke out as well.

"The only reason I'm not surprised is because the SBI has been under question for quite some time. And other cases have been reversed or overturned because of the work," said Black. "I know they've done everything they can recently to correct that but it just seems like they've had ongoing problems in the past but I know they've corrected them but it's caused a lot of cases in question."

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