In response to The N&O's series on the SBI, the children of Michael Peterson have written a letter imploring the state to give Peterson, who was convicted in 2003 of killing his wife, Kathleen, a new trial.
We, Michael Peterson’s children, would like to thank The N&O for its series on agent Duane Deaver and the N.C. SBI.
At our father’s trial, there were no eyewitnesses, no murder weapon and no credible motive. He was convicted solely on forensic evidence presented by Deaver and his colleagues at the SBI – evidence that was based on junk science and that included experiments designed to support the state’s case, not to determine the truth.
The videos of the unscientific “experiments” Deaver and his colleagues performed clearly show an attempt to re-create a desired outcome rather than to examine all possibilities. His experiments made a mockery of good science and objective testing protocols.
It is impossible to overestimate how crucial Deaver’s testimony was at the trial. Despite the objections of the defense, which vigorously questioned his qualifications, knowledge and expertise, he testified over eight days.
In her closing argument to the jury, assistant district attorney Freda Black reinforced Deaver’s importance in the state’s case by saying: “Now let’s look at Agent Deaver. Agent Deaver, Dr. Radisch, Dr. Butts, they’re state employees. And they work for your state. They work for your state, North Carolina. They work for us. They gave you truthful and accurate information. … They are tried and true. Tried and true. Because they work for us.
“Deaver will be back again. There will be other cases, other murder cases. They’ll be in the witness stand again. They wouldn’t come in and give inaccurate information. They’re not going to do that.”
Deaver did testify in other murder trials, and your series has exposed his testimony for what it is: worthless. The same can be said for his qualifications and his lack of scientific rigor.
Our father has been imprisoned for nearly seven years on the basis of testimony that not only lacked scientific validity, but also was given added import by Black’s endorsement of Deaver’s honesty and abilities.
We are heartened by Attorney General Roy Cooper’s commissioning of an independent investigation into the actions of the SBI, which will allow North Carolina to restore justice by undoing the damage perpetrated by its employees and agents at the SBI.
And in the interest of justice, we ask the state of North Carolina to overturn Peterson’s conviction and grant him a new trial, as it is clear his trial was irreparably damaged by Deaver’s involvement.
Clayton and Rebecca Peterson
This letter also was signed by Todd Peterson, Margaret Ratliff and Martha Ratliff.