Stranger Than Fiction
Michael Peterson Murder Trial - 2
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"Kathleen was so capable. She
died so young, with so many promising times ahead. I still can't believe
-- Veronica Hunt, 82, mother of Kathleen Peterson
"She was absolutely an amazing person; I'm still in awe of her. She was an amazing executive and scholar... and she could cook and sew."
-- Candace Zamperini
On Saturday September 20, the 2003 North Carolina Gay Pride Parade took to Durham's streets. Good and decent people from diverse families came together to celebrate the integrity of their lives. Not in whispered phone calls and dirty e-mails, but out in the open -- out in the sunlight of what the NCGP calls "the victory of human tolerance and understanding over the boundaries of race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation."
Kathleen Peterson had much to be proud of. The civic-minded business executive was what they call in the theater -- an angel -- a dedicated arts patron. There are those who would now like to shame her for that.
Michael Peterson's defenders point out that Kathleen went to Durham's gay pride parades. It's a reverse indictment meant to cancel out allegations of Michael Peterson's secrets and lies with male prostitutes. The charge dove-tails nicely with their claim that Kathleen Peterson was a reckless drinker who probably just got "shit-faced" and fell. That is to say... she was no angel.
Why would anyone attempt to bring shame to the memory of a woman with so much to be proud of?
Kathleen was bending gender stereo-types back at Duke University, where she was the first female student accepted into the engineering school, earning a master's degree there in 1975. She went on to become the Director of Information Services at Nortel Networks, overseeing hundreds of employees with patience and care. Kathleen served on the board of the Durham Arts Council and generously supported countless other community projects.
Yes, Kathleen Peterson loved a parade because apparently she loved the thought of people enjoying themselves.
A week before Kathleen's death, her own supervisor was laid off. The stress and pressure to perform must have been enormous. But on the day she died, Kathleen was scheduled to attend a holiday function for 100 underprivileged children. That's circumstantial evidence of someone who cared -- evidence that leaves no reasonable doubt about Kathleen's motives and modus operandi.
Her life is filled with proof that financial success can be achieved in conjunction with a human tolerance and understanding that says "people matter."
Kathleen Hunt Atwater Peterson matters. For the record -- she did not fall. Not once! She rose to every occasion. Kathleen continues to rise in a proudly partying legacy of all the art, life, laughter and love she meticulously planned, supported and engineered.
"She was a very good friend, She lived life to the fullest. She was a very intelligent woman and a loving mother."
-- Maureen Berry
"In this office we will do everything we can to make sure Kathleen Peterson and her family receive justice because that's my obligation. We're going to treat this defendant fairly and appropriately, but we're going to do what we have to do to make sure she gets justice."
-- Jim Hardin
"If he wants to engage in gay-bashing, he can do that. We will deal with it at jury selection."
-- David Rudolf
"It's hard whenever you finish something like this to put it behind you. I believe in Michael's innocence. This is not just a job for me. It's never been a job for me it's something I believe strongly in doing. I believe in reasonable doubt, I believe in the system."
-- David Rudolf
"They were just marvelously in love. This is clearly a retaliatory prosecution."
-- Doug Hinds
"I still know he didn't do it."
"Everybody is pretty much down, as you would be in a situation where someone has been sentence to life in prison for a crime he didn't commit."
"There is no question in all their minds."
"Bill said [Michael Peterson] is just as devastated, as we all are."
"The reasonable doubt was glaring."
-- Doug Hinds
"I don't think you can call a guilty verdict anything other than a defeat. But it's not a final defeat."
-- David Rudolf
The Show Must Go On
Murderer Michael Peterson's defenders claim they still hold on to the fiction that Kathleen Peterson died from an accident lasting 20 to 30 minutes and resulting in seven bone-deep lacerations, while Michael was sitting by the pool smoking for three hours.
Bill and Todd now know, like everyone else, that Kathleen Peterson had been dead for some time before her husband called 9-1-1, and they heard Michael sounding distraught and concerned as he twice lied, insisting his dead wife was "still breathing."
Martha and Margaret heard the same sickening testimony that everybody heard about the horribly typical beating deaths of Elizabeth Ratliff and Kathleen Peterson: "blunt force trauma" "homicide" "facial wounds" "defensive injuries" "lacerations" "blood loss". But it seems the Ratliff sisters find it more useful to believe lies -- and repeat lies. There is nothing sympathetic about a liar. Nothing.
So Michael Peterson is not done.
Yes, he's now locked in a small cage like an animal, but he's still very, very busy. Peterson is still beating, slashing, poking and murdering through Doug Hinds, Todd, Margaret, Martha and others whose names we may never know.
The evil fiction they've CHOSEN will be held as tightly as a new-born baby. Illusion, as a core-identity, is not an easy thing to maintain. Illusions must be coddled and nurtured, fed and schooled, and as they grow, they must be protected and defended -- even killed for if need be.
I suggest that film crew not pack-up and leave for France just yet. There's more death waiting in the wings.
"The war isn't over."
-- David Rudolf, (10/10)
A wrongful-death civil lawsuit
against Michael Peterson in October 2002
by Caitlin Atwater. It remains pending.
"On the first day when we voted ... on one element, it was unanimous. It was not a fall. It was definitely a homicide."
-- Juror, Paul Harrison
"I am more disappointed than I've been in my professional career."
-- David Rudolf
Mighty Rudolf at the Bat
"My wife died on the
staircase in an accidental fall,"
"This came out of left
-- David Rudolf
"State investigators suffered
from tunnel vision."
-- David Rudolf's closing
Juror, Richard Sarratt Sarratt, said the case boiled down to a few key facts that David Rudolf never disputed:
"There was dried blood on top of dried blood. Everybody in there felt that she could not have gotten those lacerations in a fall, or even two falls. It added up to a beating."
"Either he stood there and did nothing as she bled out, or he went back later and finished her off."
We all see things through our own
"He's innocent. He's always maintained his innocence. We all know that there's lots and lots of innocent people who are convicted of crimes."
"In my mind, when the prosecution spends three months telling the jury that your client beat somebody to death with a blowpoke, and you bring in the blowpoke, if that is not reasonable doubt, I don't know what reasonable doubt is."
"Michael's major concern is with his kids. That's almost all we talked about, his kids and what impact this is going to have on them and how they will get through this. That's really all he wanted to talk about."
"What I told him is that this is a battle, but it's not the war. I think there are major, major issues to raise on appeal. Obviously, the appellate process is a lengthy process, but I think it's important for him and his family to keep their eyes on that ball, because -- in my mind -- this is far from over."
-- David Rudolf
"It's now time to move on to the next case."
-- Jim Hardin
Jury Instructions of
evidence relating to the death of Elizabeth Ratliff.
"The Ratliff information was very, very damaging. I think the pornography and male escort evidence was very, very damaging. And the shame of it is, none of that had anything to do with what happened on that stairway. This trial should have been about what happened in that stairway and not what happened in Germany 18 years ago."
-- David Rudolf
"To this day I'm still wondering why the judge let it into evidence."
-- prostitute, Brent "BRAD" Wolgamott
"It prevented us from putting my brother on the stand."
-- Bill Peterson
Brent "Brad" Wolgamott must have the District Attorney's office on speed dial. The happy, hubby-hooking call boy apparently telephoned Hardin's office within thirty minutes of the verdict being read.
It's a good thing the vice wasn't versa. Had the DA placed a call to BRAD, it would've cost the taxpayers $3.99 a minute.
"I called them just to say congratulations on putting a monster behind bars."
-- Brent Wolgamott, AKA, Dr. Karl Smith
Prisoner Peterson will
be allowed one phone call per week,
and will not have access to the internet.
"I'm such a part of Durham."
-- Michael Peterson
"We felt comfortable with
Durham jurors and maybe that's one of those decisions you look back on and
say maybe we should have done something differently, but that's hindsight."
-- David Rudolf
DURHAM JURY DUTY
"We focused on physical evidence. We looked at the autopsy photos a lot. We looked at the autopsy report. We had a lot of discussion about the red neurons, and the passage of time that may have elapsed before she died. Those were the things that I think drove a lot of our discussion."
-- Jury foreperson, Kristen Jones
"He had a chance to stop. He didn't. It took place over a period of time. How long of a period of time, I don't know. Something happened, and it was not from a fall by Mrs. Peterson. She was beat to death."
-- Juror, Paul Harrison
"I don't have his experience, per se, but I can't imagine that a fall would cause that much blood."
-- Juror, Kellie Colgan about Henry Lee
"We know we made the right decision."
-- Juror, Shirley Ferrell (56-year-old nurse)
"I wrestled so long with -- how can a human being do this to another human being?"
-- Juror, Bettye Blackwell
"Take the time to tell the people you care about how much you care about them, and how much you love them . . . Let them know . . . Because things happen, and time is short."
-- Juror, Bettye Blackwell
"Life is too important to waste a single moment."
-- Kathleen Peterson
Lori Hunt Campell
testified during rebuttal that she saw the blowpoke in Michael's mansion
on a Durham stay-over, July 9 - 13, 2001. She said she remembered the poker
well because her 5-year-old son began swinging it around in play. "He
likes to play with sticks and swords and guns," she said. "I had
to make him put it back and quit swinging it around." Curiously, Lori
Campell also testified that the blowpoke she saw was shiny, "like it hadn't
Considering the original blowpoke was purchased in 1984, it's very possible the shiny blowpoke Kathleen's sister saw was the Peterson surprise poker introduced by his attorney in the final days of trial.
LUCK IS THE RESIDUE
"There was a little too much
of a Perry Mason moment. I expected something like that from Rudolf. It was
just smoke and mirrors."
-- Juror, Richard Sarratt
Fairytale Wagging the Dog
David Rudolf, well aware of the bogus blowpoke up his sociopathic client's sleeve, put on his poker-face and learned to live with Michael Peterson's pipe dream of acquittal.
In what must have been a marvelously maddening mind-game of -- Don't Tell, Don't Ask -- Mike, Dave, Ronny and all the murdering millionaire's men probably joked, laughed, drank and schemed through late-night strategy sessions without ever directly speaking of the poker's peculiar re-appearance.
From his demeanor, I suspect Thomas Maher tried to get out of those get-togethers.
But preferring a fictional, fire-tool finale over the simple truth, none of Peterson's pretenders ever confronted reality and asked: Who placed a time-bomb in the basement? Had someone asked that question -- aloud -- no doubt the answer would have left the PERRY MASON poker plot on the cutting room floor.
Mike's fabulous fiction of the faux poke joined forces with Dave's fantasy of masterful, last-minute legal maneuvers. At some point -- probably when it was decided that the huggable Judge Hudson could be duped into sneaking the bomb past courthouse MEDDLE detectors -- David Rudolf fell in love with the illusion.
The accidental discovery of the mysteriously missing weapon in the final hours of the murder trial was such an explosive ending that Peterson's fairytale started wagging the dog. The surprise ending inspired a three-month "SHOCK and AWE" campaign of slyly interjected exposition, thematic foreshadowing and indignant posturing.
Rudolf repeatedly fondled, flung, waved and wiggled the State's replica blowpoke in the courtroom to (nearly) everyone's astonishment. The ever-angry attorney was, in fact, seldom seen without the blowpoke, often wildly gesturing with it for no apparent reason.
And then... just as the French film crew finished the necessary lighting adjustments ...Voila! Durham's finest must've put the "U" in stupid 'cause we just happened upon what dozens of police and trained dogs failed to find during their exhaustive grid search: a slender, brassy, 40" rod of reasonable doubt.
In show biz you leave 'em wanting more -- in a court of law, the opposite is true. Unfortunately, Mike's make-believe miracle demanded endless encores to reveal, first, why the defense team was playing a coy, carnival shell game with the evidence, and secondly -- Who placed that time-bomb in Peterson's basement?
Like every other tragic reality that has resulted from Mike Peterson's fiendish fictions, the show-stopping blowpoker moment looked like exactly what it was -- a theatrical stunt. If anyone reasonably doubted that Rudolf's triumph was a tragic trick, one look at Thomas Maher's face told them -- the murder weapon hadn't just suddenly, accidentally appeared, and the showing off and inappropriate laughter from the Peterson party during the trial was an inside joke on justice.
Michael Peterson's many varied victims are all alike in one respect: they did not fear him. They were not afraid to touch him, to look into his demented eyes, to stand near him, smell him, be in the same room with him. They sensed his fear so strongly -- they denied their own fears and courageously tried to help.
Now that attorney Rudolf's SHOCK is revealed to be a 8' PowerPoint screen of smoke, and his AWE, a million dollar mirror -- he lives daily with something most of us will never even face: reasonable doubt about his own grasp of reality.
Note to Self:
Less Power -- More Point
A Jury of his Beers
October 1, the day before closing arguments and the day after a female juror was dismissed because she knew one of the expert witnesses -- a male juror got drunk and caused a commotion at a gas station. When police arrived, the juror insisted the officers couldn't do anything to him since he was a juror in the Peterson trial. He spent the night in a Durham County detention facility.
Jim Hardin addressed the court:
"He was -- as described by the mechanics to the officers -- he was very intoxicated. He was asking about the progression of the repair of his vehicle and got upset with the mechanics. He indicated to them that he was going to get a shot gun and come back and shoot someone."
After the incident it was revealed that the juror has a rap sheet longer than Mike Peterson's last novel, including convictions for writing bad checks, assault and DWI.
And Then There were None
October 6 -- Two of the three remaining alternates replaced jurors, and the final alternate was released. Since jurors did not immediately return a verdict of GUILT -- the Peterson camp looks relaxed and jovial. Defense attorney Thomas Maher, however, seems to be less than amused.
"The jury ought to have whatever they want to have. If the jury wants to look at his opening statement and see what he did or didn't prove, that's completely appropriate. If Mr. Hardin wants to run from his opening statement he can do so, but the court ought not to be aiding him."
-- David Rudolf to Judge Hudson, about the jury's Oct. 7 request for a transcript of Jim Hardin's opening statement
"It was a particularly bad combination for Kathleen Peterson, because she had been having headaches and dizziness for weeks. You'll hear testimony about that. In one instant she actually lost her vision for thirty minutes -- and Dr. Henry Green their ophthalmologist will testify -- that he got a call from Mike saying Kathleen lost her vision, and he diagnosed it as an 'ocular migraine' and eventually her sight came back."
-- David Rudolf's opening statement
Pretense and Appearances
Text of Jim Hardin's opening statement
Accidentally on Purpose
Text of a letter "accidentally" sent to jurors from WTVD reporter, Sonya Pfeiffer:
It has been a long summer in the courtroom and I know you all have gotten to know your fellow jurors very well throughout the Peterson trial. I would like to offer an opportunity for all of you to come together again after you've decided your verdict.
While you've been listening to evidence and watching the courtroom closely, I've been doing the same thing, but I've also been watching you and wondering what you're thinking -- from laughing at Dr. Lee's ketchup experiment to taking notes during complicated computer testimony -- it's been like reading tea leaves to sort out your thoughts. I'm hoping you might be willing to share some of those thoughts with me now that the evidence is behind us.
WTVD is planning a juror dinner on Saturday, Oct. 18, at 7:30 p.m. at our studio in Durham. The address is 411 Liberty Street, 27701. We won't take up your entire evening -- and it won't be a rigidly structured event. I want you all to be able to talk with each other as well as talk to me about getting through what all of us reporters have called Camp Peterson.
Please RSVP to me by Tuesday, October 14.
October 3, 2003: State of NC gives Closing Argument
October 3, 1995: After only 4 hours, a jury acquitted
O.J. SIMPSON of murdering ex-wife Nicole Simpson
and Ronald Goldman.
Excerpts from Jim Hardin's closing
"This is not a who-done-it. If you find Kathleen Peterson was murdered, the evidence shows only one person could have done it: Michael Peterson."
"They are talking. Kathleen Peterson is talking to us through the blood on those walls. She is screaming at us for truth and justice."
"You are the eyes and the ears and the conscience of this community."
"If the defendant made all these assertions in his opening statement, why didn't you hear evidence about it?"
"The bottom line is, it didn't fit into their nice little package. Do you think the defendant was really out at the pool? He was in that house committing this act. He wasn't at the pool."
"Common sense tells you this was a beating. It wasn't a fall."
"How in the world can someone get 38 injuries by falling down some steps?"
"She's fighting for her life. That's why there's so much blood."
"He assaulted her. She went down. He continued to assault her. That's when the premeditation formulated."
"This is a horrible way to die. It must have taken her a long time to die."
"A picture is worth a thousand words. But what if those walls could talk? What would they say? Kathleen Peterson is talking to us through the blood on that wall. She is screaming at us for truth. And for justice."
Freda Black Found
Peterson stifled giggles, hardly
able to contain his glee at having snuck up behind her and bashed her in
the head with his blowpoke. To make sure she was dead, Peterson had kicked,
choked and pummeled her with anything he could find. Then thinking it was
all over, Mike turned his back and left her to bleed out.
|David Rudolf began his closing
argument by playing a poorly recorded tape of the beginning of Jim Hardin's
opening -- an obvious attempt to duplicate his own opening remarks
in the trial. (Cute is its own worst enemy.)
After insisting the defense had no burden to prove anything, the attorney began a 4-hour speech to prove that his client was innocent. Rudolf, citing, "this age of David Letterman and top ten lists," launched into the...
"If Elizabeth Ratliff had died the night before, she would have been in rigor -- close to full rigor, by 11, 12 o'clock. Elizabeth Ratliff died in the morning hours. Where was Michael Peterson at that time? He was at home with Patty Peterson his first wife."
-- David Rudolf's closing
"What is the alleged motive? Why? Why would Michael Peterson have murdered Elizabeth Ratliff?"
-- Rudolf's closing
"Candace had told police that in 2001, Kathleen re-did the back hallway."
-- Rudolf's closing
"Things change. Strategies change. It's fair for you to hold it against me. It's not fair to hold it against Michael Peterson . . . I know that there are times when I can be too aggressive, too repetitive, go on too long, but I am what I am. What you see is what you get . . . I apologize. Hold it against me, but please, please, please, please, please, don't hold it against Mike."
-- Rudolf's closing
"Be careful. Don't fall down some stairs, now!"
-- David Rudolf to a female court clerk who tripped during a break
"I don't know if it was murder. I don't know. When I called 911, I thought she had fallen down the stairs and as far as I know, that's what happened."
from the hand of Michael Peterson
"Somewhere along the
line, short going of 22 years, I've forgotten about individual responsibility
-- integrity. I'd like to think that I knew it once -- had been taught it
and I did . . .(illegible). But there was a flaw with my character. Genetic
or organic, I do not know, but the flaw rendered me incapable of moral action.
Was it . . .(illegible). Television? My elders? A misplaced gene? Again,
I can't say. All I know is that I never considered myself a wicked person,
certainly no more wicked than others. There is solace with the consolation
that I was pure wicked. An aberrant personality."
Link to the
Poetic Justice TOP TEN
Reasons to Give Mike the
|from Maya Angelou's
"Still I Rise"
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
"When I called 9-1-1, I thought she'd fallen down the stairs. As far as I know, that's what happened."
If, after viewing three months of testimony from sixty some witnesses and over five-hundred items of evidence, you still have some doubt -- how come Michael Peterson was so sure his wife's death was an accident mere moments after arriving on the scene?
"1810 Cedar Street... Please!"
Even the defendant's brother, Bill Peterson, is willing to admit -- if this was an accident it was a very unusual accident. It was a unique accident in that it was relentlessly violent.
"My wife had an accident!"
A tipsy flip backward into the wall -- ONE 5" LONG LACERATION TO THE BACK OF KATHLEEN'S HEAD. WOUNDS TO RIGHT WRIST AREA. LEFT FACIAL WOUNDS.
"She fell down the stairs!"
A drunken flop to the floor -- TWO MORE BONE-DEEP LACERATIONS TO THE BACK OF THE HEAD. WOUNDS TO LEFT WRIST AREA AND RIGHT ARM. FACIAL WOUNDS ON THE RIGHT. BLACKOUT. LOSS OF OXYGEN TO THE BRAIN.
"She's still breathing!"
A hazy recovery to the feet and another slip backward -- FRONT NECK FRACTURE. FACIAL WOUNDS ON THE LEFT EYE. RIGHT ARM WOUNDS. THREE MORE HORIZONTAL AND VERTICAL, DEEP, JAGGED LACERATIONS TO THE BACK OF KATHLEEN'S HEAD. A CHIPPED TOOTH.
Do you still have doubts? A year and a half after Kathleen Peterson was found dead on the floor surrounded by enormous amounts of swipes, smears and spatters of her own blood, do you harbor some doubt about how that possibly could've happened?
Michael Peterson doesn't -- and he never did.
Peterson was absolutely sure at the very instant it happened. He was certain the violent, painful death was just a fluke of fate -- even as he was changing his shoes and putting towels under his dead wife's head.
"No, she's not conscious!"
Michael Peterson had no reason to doubt that this was just a simple accidental death because for him, it was not unique. Peterson had seen the exact same accident happen fifteen years earlier to another woman he claimed he dearly loved. He had no doubts then, either.
"There's been an accident! Liz fell down the stairs and died."
An Answer for (almost) Everything!
Elizabeth Mckee / Kathleen Hunt
from Bulfinch's Mythology
. . . His tears fell into the water and disturbed the image. As he saw it depart, he exclaimed, "Stay, I entreat you! Let me at least gaze upon you, if I may not touch you."
With this, and much more of the same kind, Narcissus cherished the flame that consumed him, so that by degrees he lost his color, his vigor, and the beauty which formerly had so charmed the nymph Echo. She kept near him, however, and when he exclaimed, "Alas! alas!" she answered him with the same words. He pined away and died; and when his shade passed the Stygian river, it leaned over the boat to catch a look of itself in the waters. . .
"That will be a looming question in people's minds as to why he did not testify in his own defense. The answer to that question is that the defense weighed carefully what his cross-examination would be like with respect to the male prostitute and other matters that might put him in a bad light."
Bill Thomas, a Durham defense attorney
Sep 29, 2003 -- Day 54
Final Defense witness:
Along with Candace Zamperini's blowpoke and the surprise blowpoke from Peterson, David Rudolf questioned Art Holland about two other identical fireplace tools collected by the prosecution from the victim's family. Ultimately, 4 blowpokes were entered into evidence.
Sep 29 --
Final Prosecution Rebuttal witness:
Dr. John Butts,
North Carolina's chief medical examiner
"There's no evidence of any significant aspiration of blood . . . If you don't see anything there, if it's not visible, then it can't really be aspirated."
"In my opinion the multitude of injuries are not consistent with a fall down the steps."
"In my opinion, the number, location and appearance of the wounds are consistent with inflicted trauma, that is not accidental trauma -- beating would be a term that one could use."
emeritus professor of engineering - Duke University
"You can't hit the flat stair surface with the top of your head in a fall."
"Two of the wounds could be attributed to contacting a horizontal edge like the stairs, but the others are in the wrong direction and start in the wrong place."
"The injuries, lacerations, bruises, contusions -- to my mind -- are inconsistent with a fall down the steps but are consistent with a beating with a blunt instrument -- most likely a rounded blunt instrument."
"The lack of skull fracture and brain injury tells me that this was a relatively light object striking the head to achieve the velocity necessary for a laceration, versus a fall down the steps, where the velocity of the head necessary to lacerate like this, I would also expect to cause brain injury and or skull fracture."
m a l i c e a f o r e t h o u g h t
"In my opinion, the cause of death in this case was due to severe concussive injury of the brain caused by multiple blunt force impacts of the head. Blood loss from the deep scalp lacerations may have also played a role in her death."
"I'm married, very happily
married with a dynamite
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