RALEIGH, N.C. — The State Court of Appeals refused Tuesday to overturn the murder conviction of novelist Michael Peterson, who was found guilty of bludgeoning his wife to death in their home in 2001.
A three-judge panel, with one judge dissenting, rejected Peterson’s arguments that he did not get a fair trial because of repeated judicial mistakes.
His wife, Nortel Networks executive Kathleen Peterson, was found dead Dec. 9, 2001, at the bottom of a staircase in the couple’s Durham home. Her husband, now serving a life sentence, insists that she died in an accidental fall.
His lawyer, Thomas Maher, said he would appeal Tuesday’s ruling to the state Supreme Court.
In an April hearing, Maher argued that Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson erred during the trial by allowing in evidence that had no clear connection to the case and letting prosecutors make prejudicial statements in closing arguments.
In particular, Maher cited testimony regarding Peterson’s bisexuality, his wife’s finances, and the prosecution implication that he was to blame for the 1985 death of a friend, Elizabeth Ratliff, who also was found dead at the foot of a staircase.
The appeals ruling said the evidence was fairly admitted. The judges did find defects in a search warrant but said it had no ill effect on the defense.
Judge Jim Wynn dissented, saying three of the issues presented to the appeals court should be ruled upon only by the state Supreme Court.
Peterson’s books include the 1990 Vietnam novel “A Time of War” and its 1995 sequel, “A Bitter Peace.” He also was a newspaper columnist and once ran for mayor of Durham.
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