RALEIGH, North Carolina — The attorney for a Durham novelist who's been granted a new trial in the 2001 death of his wife says a State Bureau of Investigation agent gave false and misleading testimony, meaning the trial was flawed.
Jim Cooney argued before the N.C. Court of Appeals Wednesday that former SBI crime lab agent Duane Deaver lied, and that violates Michael Peterson's due process.
"Duane Deaver was essentially a fraud, and if they had known he was a fraud during this trial, it of course would have had a material impact," Cooney said.
Lawyers from the state Attorney General's office want Peterson in prison. They contend that Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson was wrong to toss out the 2003 conviction, and they say there was enough other evidence to implicate Peterson for Kathleen Peterson's murder.
Last May, Hudson ruled that Peterson's 2003 murder conviction was obtained with "materially misleading" and "deliberately false" testimony from Deaver. Hudson said in December 2011 from the bench that misconduct by Deaver required a new trial.
Robert Montgomery, special deputy attorney general, contended that Durham County prosecutors didn't know Deaver was exaggerating his qualifications at the Peterson trial. He also argued that prosecutors had no way of knowing that lab results that might have helped Peterson were not passed along, as was the SBI practice at the time.
Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Kathleen Peterson, who was found at the bottom of a staircase in the couple's mansion on Dec. 9, 2001. The 68-year-old Peterson has maintained his wife died in an accidental fall after drinking alcohol and taking Valium.
It was unclear when the three-judge appeals court panel will rule.