Michael Peterson

Michael Peterson is a novelist who was convicted in 2003 of murdering his second wife, Kathleen Peterson. On December 15, 2011, Peterson was granted a new trial. On December 9, 2001, Peterson called an emergency line to report that he had just found Kathleen unconscious and suspected she had fallen down stairs. He later claimed that he had been outside by the pool and had come in at 2:40am to find Kathleen at the foot of the stairs. He maintained she must have fallen down the stairs after consuming alcohol and valium. Toxicology results showed that his wife's blood alcohol content was 0.07 percent. The autopsy report concluded that the 48-year-old victim sustained a matrix of severe injuries, including a fracture of the thyroid neck cartilage and seven lacerations to the top and back of her head, consistent with blows from a blunt object, and had died from blood loss 90 minutes to two hours after sustaining the injuries. He was found guilty and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Denial of parole requires premeditation. Despite the jury accepting the murder was a 'spur-of-the-moment' crime, they also found it was premeditated. As one juror explained it, premeditated meant not only planning hours or days ahead, but could also mean planning in the seconds before committing a spur-of-the -moment crime. Following a series of newspaper articles critical of the investigative tactics of State Bureau of Investigation agents, Attorney General Roy Cooper led an investigation, which resulted in the suspension of SBI analyst Duane Deaver, one of the principal witnesses against Peterson, after the report found his work among the worst done on scores of flawed criminal cases. Peterson was granted a new trial and released on $300,000 bail and placed under house.