WRAL is reporting the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office went on record Friday, (via a 92 page response to Peterson’s Motion for Appropriate Relief) saying that convicted murdered Michael Peterson should not get another day in court. The AG’s office filed it’s opinion, despite Judge Orlando Hudson’s decision last year to hold a hearing on whether Durham County prosecutors withheld evidence during Peterson’s murder trial.
In November of last year, Jason Anthony, a attorney who now represents Peterson filed documents in Durham County Superior Court which claimed prosecutors withheld crucial evidence about a tire iron found in a neighbors yard from Peterson’s defense lawyers during the original trial in 2003. A letter found in a box of evidence by Peterson’s friends and family contained communications between a neighbor of Peterson’s and Durham County investigators regarding the discovery of a tire iron in the neighbors yard. The discovery was made several weeks after Kathleen Peterson was murdered. Anthony maintains the evidence might have changed the outcome of Peterson’s trial due to the fact it could have been the murder weapon.
Judge Hudson announced in December 08, that he had decided to order a pre-trial conference to basically narrow down the potential issues to be heard at the evidentiary hearing. But according to District Attorney David Saacks they were not required to disclose the tire iron evidence to Peterson’s attorney’s. Saacks is maintaining the discovery rules in effect in 2003 were different than those now on the books. From the N&O:
District Attorney David Saacks, a prosecutor who helped with the trial, said investigators logged the tire iron into evidence and then tested it as a possible murder weapon.
Saacks said recently that after doing the tests, investigators ruled out the tire iron as the cause of Kathleen Peterson’s death.
The log that showed the tire iron had been collected and tested was not turned over to defense lawyers, Anthony said, leading to his charge that evidence was withheld.
Saacks said earlier this week that in 2003, state law did not require prosecutors to turn over such evidence to the defense.
So why did Judge Hudson decide on a evidentiary conference? I believe he was simply ruling on the safe side, given the issue of previous prosecutorial misconduct in the Durham County’s DA’s office, plain and simple. In fact the AG’s office believes the latest claim by Peterson’s attorney is no more that pure rhetoric.
Indeed, defendant’s current counsel, Jason Anthony, is quoted in the Raleigh News and Observer on 13 November 2008 as stating to the press on the courthouse steps in Durham that “Durham is going to have the same experience it had before with the Duke [lacrosse]case.” According to the newspaper, Mr. Anthony further said, “This is the worst case of misconduct by the state that I have seen in my career.” One may infer from his misleading allegation about Mr.Nifong in the MAR, and his bluster in playing to the press, that Mr. Anthony hopes to prevail in this cause through rhetoric rather than through facts.
On Friday, Hudson said he would review the state’s response before deciding whether to go ahead. We can hope this will put an end to this sad case once and for all.