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N.C. judge grants new trial to novelist convicted of murdering wife

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 3:07 AM EST, Fri December 16, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Peterson's attorney says "Duane Deaver was all over that scene for days"
  • NEW: Peterson's son lauds the judge's decision, yet his stepsister is more guarded
  • In 2003, a grand jury convicted Michael Peterson of murdering his wife
  • A judge has granted him a new trial, saying an agent had misled jurors in his testimony

Read more about this story from CNN affiliate WRAL.

(CNN) -- Novelist Michael Peterson walked out of a North Carolina jail Thursday, eight years after he was convicted of murdering his wife.

A jury convicted Peterson in October 2003 of murder, siding with prosecutors who argued he had bludgeoned Kathleen Peterson to death in the stairwell of their Durham home.

But on Wednesday, Judge Orlando Hudson ruled that Peterson deserved a new trial and finding that North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation agent Duane Deaver had misled jurors about bloodstain evidence. Deaver was fired by the agency last January.

Peterson addressed the press after being released Thursday on bond.

"I have waited over eight years -- 2,988 days as a matter of fact ... for an opportunity to have a retrial," Peterson said, while surrounded by family. "I want to thank Judge Hudson for giving me that opportunity so that I can vindicate myself and prove my innocence, in a fair trial this time."

His son, Clayton Peterson, told CNN affiliate WRAL that he was happy to hear Thursday that his father could get out of jail -- in contrast to his feelings after the verdict came down.

"I sort of went numb, just like I did when I heard guilty," he said. "I love Kathleen more than anything, but he didn't do it. He told me, and I know it and I believe it with my heart."

But Caitlin Atwater, Peterson's stepdaughter, was far less enthusiastic in her remarks.

"My thoughts, as always, are focused on the loss of my Mom -- a wonderful, beautiful and vibrant person," Atwater said. "She meant much to Durham and everything to me. Michael Peterson is still charged with her murder, and this is still in the hands of the justice system."

Peterson, now 68, had made a frantic 911 call on December 9, 2001, about his wife of five years. Police initially believed Kathleen Peterson died as a result of an accidental fall down a flight of stairs, but the sheer volume of blood at the scene and a coroner's report that she had several head lacerations changed their minds.

Sixty-five witnesses testified, and more than 800 pieces of evidence were presented, over the course of Peterson's three-month trial in 2003. The jury of five men and seven women deliberated 15 hours over five days before reaching their decision.

According to the North Carolina Department of Correction's website, Peterson has had eight infractions since being incarcerated -- including four last year alone, with two for disobeying an order and one each for creating an "offensive condition" and theft of property.

His books include "The Immortal Dragon," "Charlie Two Shoes and the Marines of Love Company" and "A Time of War."

Peterson's attorney, David Rudolf, predicted that the next trial will be "very very different" than the first one.

"Some of the evidence that was introduced at the first trial simply will be inadmissible," Rudolf told HLN's Vinne Politan on Thursday. "Second of all, Duane Deaver was all over that scene for days and days."

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