Judge denies request to dismiss murder charge against Michael Peterson

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — A Durham judge denied a request Monday to dismiss the murder charge against Michael Peterson.

RELATED: Durham novelist Michael Peterson back in court for motions hearing

The case against novelist Michael Peterson has been in the news for 15 years and continues today, as his lawyers pushed to have Peterson’s upcoming retrial dismissed.

Peterson will face trial again beginning May 8, 2017.

Monday’s motions hearing comes three months since the two sides were in a courtroom for another hearing, leading up to Peterson’s retrial.

He’s accused in the 2001 death of his wife Kathleen, who was found dead in a back staircase in their Durham mansion. Nearly two weeks later, Peterson, who says he found her body, was indicted for murder.

He was found guilty in 2003, only for the conviction to be overturned in 2011 after it was determined that a blood analyst misled jurors on the strength of the evidence.

That analyst, Duane Deaver with the SBI, was found to have repeatedly aided prosecutors of obtaining convictions over a 16-year period, mostly by misrepresenting blood evidence and keeping critical notes from defense attorneys. A government-ordered inquest is what uncovered the findings.

The SBI fired Deaver after an audit found he falsely represented evidence in 34 cases.

Judge Orlando Hudson then granted Peterson’s lawyer’s motion for a new trial on Dec. 14, 2011. Peterson was released from Durham County jail on Dec. 16, 2011 on $300,000 bail and ordered to house arrest.

On July 16, 2013, the North Carolina Court of Appeals issued a ruling saying that Peterson should get a new trial.

A forensic science expert, Timothy Palmbach, took the stand on Monday.

The defense showed him photos taken last December of evidence stored in the clerk’s office. Palmbach said reliable DNA testing would not be possible on the evidence in its current state because the bag that contained the evidence had been open and accessible.

For example, Palmbach said, it has Michael Peterson’s sneakers touching clothing from the victim.

“Would the results be reliable in any fashion? No, because of the cross contamination,” he said.

The forensic scientist said it’s “critical evidence” because the bits of clothing has biological evidence, including blood, that’s very relevant to the case.

“You can’t make it an inference that the contamination was the result of the crime or the incident. You’d have to understand that it’s just as probable that it’s a result of cross contamination and doesn’t have anything to do with the case,” said Palmbach.

The prosecution tried to rule out the theory that someone broke in and killed Peterson. During cross examination, Palmbach said he was not aware of any evidence of forced entry to the home.

Palmbach said the evidence is consistent that she died of a fall.

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