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Convicted novelist, without a dime, seeks a lawyer

By Matt Bean
Court TV

Peterson, left, shown during his trial.
Peterson, left, shown during his trial.

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(Court TV) -- Convicted killer Michael Peterson is broke and seeking a court-appointed lawyer to handle his appeal, he claims in documents filed in Durham County, North Carolina.

"I now request the Court to assign a lawyer to represent me in this case," reads the form signed by Peterson on October 17.

According to the financial snapshot included in Peterson's affidavit of indigence, the novelist, who was convicted October 10 of murdering his wife, is a whopping $111,000 in the hole.

Peterson listed $1.297 million in assets, including his 1959 Triumph TR3 ($10,000), the Durham mansion where his wife died ($1,275,000), $20,000 in personal property, and $2,000 in cash.

But multiple mortgages on his properties, $105,000 in "other installment accounts," and $78,000 in back taxes help push his debt to $1.408 million.

It remains uncertain just how much Peterson's legal tab amounted to after two months of jury selection and three months of testimony, including attorney's fees and numerous experts charging more than $500 per hour.

Peterson's defense attorney David Rudolf did not return calls for comment. After Peterson's conviction, Rudolf filed a notice of appeal.

To help defray his legal costs, Peterson sold a Durham house last year for $189,000 and put up the Durham mansion as collateral against a potential $300,000 loan from his brother, Bill Peterson.

In addition, Peterson raised funds through other sources, including:

• A $75,000 loan against a mortgage on a Durham property in June 2002

• A $175,000 loan against a living trust in April 2003

• A $168,000 loan from his ex-wife Patricia Sue Peterson in April 2003

Peterson, who turned 60 on Thursday, has three novels under his belt and was toasting the sale of the movie rights to one of the books the night his wife died.

But on the affidavit filed this week, the novelist notes that he is "currently unemployed due to incarceration."

Peterson then lists a monthly income of $1,500 in disability and retirement from his military days.

The "Employment-Spouse" space is left blank.

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