Michael Peterson, the former Durham novelist convicted of murder in 2003, will get a new trial, a judge ruled today.
Judge Orlando Hudson found that former SBI agent Duane Deaver misled the judge and jury in 2003, when his testimony helped convict Peterson in the death of his wife, Kathleen Peterson.
Deaver misled the jury about the validity of his experiments at the trial, Hudson said.
Hudson also found that Deaver gave perjured testimony.
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"Is a new trial required?" Hudson asked. "The answer is yes."
Peterson put his hand to his forehead and closed his eye as Hudson ruled. His family and friends crowding the court bench behind Peterson hugged each other, with several of his children quietly sobbing.
Clayton Peterson said he has always believed in his father's innocence and was shocked as evidence of Deaver's misconduct accumulated over the six days of the hearing. David Rudolf, Peterson's attorney, presented video clips of Deaver's testimony at trial and then contradicted them with SBI records and expert testimony.
"I became increasingly angry and disgusted," Clayton Peterson said. "Seeing the evidence presented, I am just disgusted."
A bond hearing is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.
Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline argued that Peterson should be denied a new trial because Rudolf could have discovered all the evidence about Deaver before the 2003 trial.
"The same information was available back in 2001," Cline said. "There is no new evidence that would make the jury reach a different verdict."
Cline declined to discuss whether she would pursue a perjury investigation against Deaver, given Hudson's ruling that Deaver presented "perjured testimony."
In general, perjury investigations are difficult, Cline said.
A prosecutor must first establish the truth, Cline said.
"And we have to show that he knew the truth and testified otherwise, and that is difficult," Cline said.
SBI assistant director Erik Hooks said in an interview last year that he could find no instance of an SBI agent being charged with perjury.