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Novelist Wins Murder Retrial in Wife`s Death
Aired December 16, 2011 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NANCY GRACE, HOST: Breaking news tonight, live, North Carolina. The wife of a best-selling novelist found bloody, seven blows, blunt force trauma to the head, dead at the bottom of the staircase there in their 14- room mansion. He claims she falls to her death after a boozy night of champagne and Valium.
But then we learn of a marriage in crisis, male escorts for him, a $1.5 million life insurance policy, signs of manual strangulation. Then we discover another woman. Years ago, Petersons`, quote, "close friend" also dead at the foot of the stairs, seven blows to the head. Again, last person with her, Michael Peterson.
Bombshell tonight. In a stunning twist, in the last hours, convicted wife killer novelist Michael Peterson walks free tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
911 OPERATOR: 911. What is your emergency?
MICHAEL PETERSON, NOVELIST: 1810 Cedar Street. Please!
911 OPERATOR: What`s wrong?
PETERSON: My wife had an accident! She`s still breathing!
911 OPERATOR: What kind of accident?
PETERSON: She fell down the stairs!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael Peterson made his way out of the Durham County jail.
PETERSON: I have waited over eight years, 2,988 days as a matter of fact.
911 OPERATOR: Is she conscious?
PETERSON: No, she`s not conscious. Please!
911 OPERATOR: How many stairs did she fall down?
911 OPERATOR: How many stairs?
911 OPERATOR: How many stairs?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You find somebody at the bottom of the stairs. I guess they fell down the stairs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We the 12 members of the jury unanimously find the defendant to be guilty of first degree murder.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We already lost one mother. Now the state has taken away our father.
PETERSON: Where are they? 1810 Cedar! She`s not breathing! Please! Please! Would you hurry up!
-- vindicate myself and prove my innocence in a fair trial this time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Good evening. I`m Nancy Grace. I want to thank you for being with us. Bombshell tonight. A stunning twist. In the last hours, convicted wife killer, novelist Michael Peterson, walks free tonight.
As many of you will recall, we covered this case day after day when Peterson was on trial in the murder of his wife, a mother, a well-respected business person, found dead at the bottom of their mansion stairs with seven blows to the head.
Clark, please give me the autopsy report -- the blows all around the top, the back, the sides of the head. And then we learn, years before, another protege of Michael Peterson found dead at the bottom of the stairs, this time in Germany, seven blows to the head. Her body exhumed and then determined homicide.
We are taking your calls. And live on the scene in North Carolina, to Tom Gasparoli, columnist who covered the trial. Tom, thank you for being with us -- Tom joining us tonight out of Chapel Hill. Are your surprised, Tom?
TOM GASPAROLI, FORMER COLUMNIST (VIA TELEPHONE): Well, let me say first, good evening, Nancy. It`s good to talk to you again. It`s been a while.
No, I`m not surprised. Once we determined that agent Duane Deaver, the blood stain specialist, had exaggerated his resume, what it appeared, to a large extent, I think it would have been a terrible injustice not to give Mr. Peterson a new trial. I think that everything he would have said after that would have been affected by his credentials, or what he said were his credentials, and you have to give him a new trial.
GRACE: You know what, Tom? You`re right. That is the crux for the reversal of the conviction. The blood splatter expert at trial, Deaver, witness for the state, we now know exaggerated his resume, exaggerated some of his techniques that was used in past trials.
It`s my understanding -- to you, Ellie Jostad -- that none of his testimony in this trial was deemed to be perjurious. It`s him padding his resume, padding his expertise, and his conduct in other trials.
ELLIE JOSTAD, NANCY GRACE PRODUCER: Well, Nancy, the judge did say that he had made perjurious comments in testimony, and I believe he was referring to this case. The problem, Nancy, is that he said there was a...
GRACE: But as to what? Perjurious as to his expertise, as to some of his testing methods?
JOSTAD: Yes. All of the above, and his analysis of the spatter there at the scene. You know, the defense experts came to a very different conclusion. They said that there were other explanations for the spatter there, explanations other than a beating death.
GRACE: OK, let`s take a look. Hold that video, please, Liz. According to Michael Peterson, the novelist -- who apparently faked getting a Purple Heart in Vietnam -- look at the stairwell. I guess the thinking is that Kathleen Peterson -- her head was like a basketball. She went from side to side to side to side to side, leaving blood, as I recall the testimony at trial -- to Aphrodite Jones, host of "True Crime" on Investigation Discovery, the author of "A Perfect Husband" about this case -- now, this is off the top of my head, Aphrodite, but as I recall, some of that blood was higher up than where she would have fallen, OK?
Let`s just imagine the stairs. Let`s see the stairs again, Liz. She hits her head because the blood started at the top of the stairs, as I recall, right there. There you go, at that landing. And look at that blood! That`s from a fall? I mean, I`m certainly not a blood spatter expert, but -- then as you go down the stairs -- let`s see the video, Liz. What, she kept falling from side to side to side in the stairwell and getting blood higher up than her head would have been?
I mean Aphrodite, help me.
APHRODITE JONES, HOST, "TRUE CRIME" ON INVESTIGATION DISCOVERY: OK, Nancy, you are so right. It`s insane...
JONES: ... to think that this -- these -- all of this blood spatter, these minute spatters that went all the way up to the top of the stairs, through every stairwell -- each increment of stairs has minute spatters of blood. That would not happen from a fall. That is from a beating. It`s consistent with a beating.
And remember, Nancy, too, that Michael Peterson had blood spatter inside his shorts. A juror told me that the reason they found him guilty of first degree murder was because there was blood spatter inside his shorts, which, by the way, could have only gotten there if it was consistent with him standing over his wife, beating her to death.
GRACE: Inside his shorts? Back to Tom Gasparoli, who covered the trial. Blood inside Peterson`s shorts, Tom?
GASPAROLI: Well, Aphrodite is exactly right. And that was a crucial piece of evidence. The jury said that in their news conference. They put aside a number of other issues and focused on that, and said, How did that get there? That was never established. I think there were attempts established how, but they didn`t fly. How does that happen?
GRACE: And Alexis Tereszcuk, our senior reporter, Radaronline.com, the male escort! I mean, everybody painted this as such a happy marriage. The reality is, as I recall the evidence -- and I covered it every single day -- wasn`t Michael Peterson going on line, trolling for male hookers?
Excuse me. Excuse me. Male escorts. Go ahead.
ALEXIS TERESZCUK, RADARONLINE.COM: You`re exactly right. He was. He had hooked up with this one man who actually testified that they had been planning to meet up. And he said that he even spoke about his relationship with his wife. This man said they were going meet up. They planned to have a sexual relationship. But he had to cancel. He had to go out of town.
So he says during the trial, We were going have a relationship and the wife found out about it. She apparently found out about these e-mails. She read them. She knew that he was having an affair or was planning on having an affair, or a relationship, with a prostitute, I guess is the right word, and that caused her incredible grief. She was very unhappy about this.
GRACE: Aphrodite Jones with us, who literally wrote the book on this trial -- I covered it -- she did extensive research on it, far beyond what we -- what I learned in the courtroom, a lot of the evidence not admissible in a court of law. That doesn`t mean it doesn`t exist.
What did I just see, Aphrodite, "Like `em straight"? What`s that?
JONES: Well, there are a list of Web sites that Michael Peterson had gone to. All of them were later entered into -- some of them entered into evidence to show that he was going to gay pornography Web sites to have photo images of gay men, and that he actually had a whole list of e-mails back and forth with this male prostitute, whereby he was actually contracting the prostitute for when to have the sex, where to have the sex and what he was going to pay for.
And all of that was actually shown to the jury, and the jury took a very harsh look at the fact that Michael Peterson was presenting this perfect marriage.
GRACE: And Aphrodite, refresh my recollection because I remember when the cops got there, at one juncture, they were looking at the scene, and Peterson ran to it and got on his computer. Didn`t that happen?
JONES: Yes, it did happen. You`re right, Nancy. You know what happened? On December 8, 2001, the day that Kathleen Peterson found the e- mails, found the pornographic images and was found dead at the bottom of the stairs, when Michael Peterson was -- instead of being questioned, he ran into his office in the mansion and deleted all of those sexual pornographic male gay Web sites and deleted all the e-mails to the male prostitute.
They were later recovered by forensic computer experts for the prosecution. So he did delete on December 8th.
GRACE: Oh, hey, whoa, whoa, wait, wait, wait, wait! Liz! Liz, when I tell you I want to see the Web site, you don`t have to show me photos of men examining their underwear, OK? I think you understand what I`m telling you, all right? Thank you, Liz, in New York.
OK, Aphrodite, let me get this straight. December 8, 2001, she`s dead. Police come to the scene, and he runs to the computer and starts deleting e-mails, right?
JONES: Yes. We later find that out through forensic analysis of the computer.
GRACE: All right. OK. Hold it. Unleash the lawyers. Joining me, Gloria Allred, host of "We the People," LA, Peter Elikann, defense, author of "Superpredators," Boston, Darryl Cohen, former prosecutor turned defense attorney, Atlanta.
Darryl, your wife is dead at the foot of the stairs, and you race up to your computer to start deleting gay e-mails? Look, I`m all for gay e- mails. I don`t care who e-mails who. I don`t care who sleeps with who. Cats and dogs sleeping together, don`t care. But when a dead body enters the scene, I care. Deleting e-mails. OK, how do you explain that, Darryl?
DARRYL COHEN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You explain it because he was in an absolute panic, and he probably thought, Well, they`re going to look at this. My wife is dead. It was an accident.
GRACE: Put him up!
COHEN: She fell down the stairs. And I need to do whatever I need to do to make sure there`s nothing incriminating to show I may be having...
GRACE: OK, Darryl, are you serious?
GRACE: Because before you went to the defense side, you were a prosecutor in inner-city Atlanta. You dealt with crime victims. I am a crime victim. And when I was a tangential victim of murder, I was not worried about my computer, I was worried that someone I loved was murdered. How can you even say that with a straight face, Cohen?
COHEN: Because, Nancy, quite frankly, you were a victim. He was a victim, and he did not want to turn into a defendant, which is exactly how it happened.
GRACE: OK, what about it, Gloria?
COHEN: He turned into a defendant.
GRACE: Let`s hear from Gloria Allred.
GLORIA ALLRED, VICTIMS` RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Patently absurd. Wouldn`t he care about the family members and be calling them if he really cared about the death? Instead, he only appears to care about himself and his own possible jeopardy.
GRACE: OK, what about it, Peter Elikann?
PETER ELIKANN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think everybody acts differently in a crisis situation. You can`t tell a hurt man how to holler. It doesn`t make him a murderer.
GRACE: You know what? I`m going to give you a commercial break to come up with a different line.
When we come back, Kathleen`s daughter, Caitlin, is with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETERSON: My wife had accident! She`s still breathing!
911 OPERATOR: What kind of accident?
PETERSON: She fell down the stairs! She`s still breathing! Please!
I am innocent of these charges, and we will prove it in court.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The 12 members of the jury unanimously find the defendant to be guilty of first degree murder.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It took 63 days in the courtroom to convict Mike Peterson for the murder of his wife, Kathleen.
PETERSON: Kathleen was my life. I whispered her name in my heart.
911 OPERATOR: Calm down, sir. Calm down.
PETERSON: Oh, God! (INAUDIBLE) I don`t know! Please! Get somebody here right away! Please!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judge Orlando Hudson ruled former state bureau of investigation agent Duane Deaver misled jurors at the trial.
PETERSON: I have waited over eight years.
(INAUDIBLE) just like I did when I heard "guilty." I couldn`t believe it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... discuss anything other than just trying to get to know each other.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was basically the same as many other clients who contact me. They want to be safe, so they want to get to know me to make sure that I`m -- I`m a straight -- a straight guy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, well, what`s that mean?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I`m not a gangster or somebody who`s going rob them. I`m a, you know...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... clean-cut professional who`s going to have -- they`re going to have a good time with me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look at 178. Do you recognize that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I`m the man in the middle.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. And now, do you know how this photograph might have come into Mr. Peterson`s possession then?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would have had to send to it him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. During the course of your conversations with Mr. Peterson, whether it be by phone or computer, did he ever mention his wife?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe he did, yes, ma`am.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: About how fond he was of her. You`re seeing video from a documentary called "The Staircase" from Maha (ph) Productions and YouTube.
And it wasn`t just this one guy, which -- hey, have at it, people! But when a dead body emerges, then I`m interested. There were over 2,000 nude male photos on his hard drive. And this was before people realized if you delete something, it`s still there on the hard drive.
We are taking your calls, but with me right now is a very special guest, Caitlin Atwater. This is Kathleen`s daughter. It was widely reported that all of Peterson`s children were on the front row cheering when this verdict, this guilty verdict rendered by a jury, was overturned. And I said that minute, I know Caitlin Atwater was not cheering anything because she loved her mother and loves her to this day.
Caitlin, I`ve been thinking about you ever since I heard the news. What are your thoughts, dear?
CAITLIN ATWATER, VICTIM`S DAUGHTER: Hi, Nancy. It`s good to talk to you. Obviously, this has been a pretty overwhelming time for us, for my mom`s whole family. We weren`t -- I wouldn`t say we were blindsided by what`s happened, but we certainly -- you know, it was 10 years ago last Friday that my mom was killed by Michael Peterson. And to have to relive all of these tragic events, and you know, all of this testimony, all of this drama surrounding this has just been gut-wrenching.
I mean, it`s been so hard to not be able to move forward. It`s been 10 years. All I want right now is to just, you know, focus on the memory of my mother, instead of the real injustice that`s here, which is that she didn`t get a fair trial. The man who murdered her is walking free -- not free, he`s still charged with her murder. But he`s -- he`s home under house arrest, and she`s dead because of him. And so for her to not have a fair trial is what`s really been hard for us.
GRACE: With me is Caitlin Atwater. She lived through the trial of her stepfather, the murder of her mother, and to this day, believes he is the killer. Nothing is bringing her mother back, but there is one thing we can do tonight and that is seek justice!
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETERSON: Michael Peterson made his way out of the Durham County jail.
PETERSON: And I count (ph) for an opportunity to have a retrial.
911 OPERATOR: Is she conscious?
PETERSON: No, she`s not conscious!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The jury found Peterson guilty in the death of his wife, Kathleen.
PETERSON: I can`t stop crying. I would never have done anything to hurt her.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there`s nothing there, there`s nothing there.
911 OPERATOR: Calm down.
PETERSON: Oh, 15, 20, I don`t know! Please! Get somebody here right away! Please!
911 OPERATOR: OK, somebody`s dispatching the ambulance while I ask you questions.
PETERSON: (INAUDIBLE) Please! Please!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: That is so fake! Liz, cue me back up that ambulance call. That is so fake!
Mark Hillman, clinical psychotherapist -- I`m going to go right back to Caitlin, everyone -- but did you hear that? At one moment (INAUDIBLE) and then suddenly, he`s cured. It`s just so staged! Can you not see that, Hillman?
MARK HILLMAN, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: Good evening, Nancy. Yes, of course it`s fake. You know, you take a look at what his motives are. You`re financially there in debt. She finds out he`s going have a same-sex relationship. She threatens to leave. Cash flow`s cut off. And you know what? The rest is history.
As you said, the blood drops at the top of the stairs, the blood in his shorts -- you may have an overzealous Duane Deaver promoting himself. He eventually got his. But again, I agree with you that he`s guilty.
GRACE: With me, Mark Hillman, psychotherapist out of New York, author of "My Therapist Is Making Me Nuts."
I want to go back to Kathleen`s daughter, Caitlin Atwater, who held her head up throughout the whole trial, the love of her mother`s life, and to this day is still there fighting for justice -- to this day! Now, this is what love is. Look on your screen. Do you see Caitlin?
GRACE: She`s still here, fighting it out. Caitlin, describe what you learned about that night. I mean, come on! Your mom was not out at 2:00 o`clock in the morning sitting by the pool in 40-degree weather. That`s just not true!
ATWATER: Nancy, what`s been so hard about all of this is that, you know, first of all, I did sit there every day through the trial. And it was -- it`s the longest trial on record in Durham, North Carolina. It was over five months long.
And there was a mountain of evidence. And it was a process to discover the truth about my mom from the day that I found out she died. You know, no one wants to hear any of this news. No one wants to hear that my mother was -- was dead, that she was murdered.
But as the facts fell out, there was just a mountain of evidence, and it became very clear what happened. And it certainly is a tragedy that it wasn`t because of the blood spatter that he`s getting a new trial, but he certainly -- you know, there`s more to it than that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were just talking and finishing our drinks. And then she said I got to go in because I`ve got a conference call in the morning. And she started walking out that way. And I stayed right here. I don`t think I said anything special to her. Not thinking this is the last time I would see her. Said good night. Be up a little bit later. And I stayed here. And she walked. And the last I saw her was when I was there and she was just walking here. That`s it. That was the last I saw Kathleen alive. No, she was alive when I found her but barely.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much. Use just half a spoon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: OK. That is video from the documentary "the staircase" from Maja productions and that was Dr. Henry Lee. He`s a renowned professor of forensic science at University of New Haven. He testified for the defense. As you`ll recall him as testifying for the defense in the O.J. Simpson trial as well.
Dr. Henry Lee, thank you for being with us.
DR. HENRY LEE, FORENSIC SCIENCE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF NEW HAVEN (via telephone): Thank you, Nancy.
GRACE: Dr. Lee, I`m sure you must know that we`ve just shown the clip of you spitting ketchup. Why did do you that?
LEE: Because there are so many different explanations. As scientists we should focus on forensic evidence instead of human emotion which becomes so bias, take the prosecution side as only one explanation, no other explanation. That`s basically the mistake Deaver made.
GRACE: Yes. I was asking you about why you spit ketchup.
LEE: The ketchup, basically if somebody have an injury, have some blood in the mouth or nose automatically you`re going cough up. When you cough up a single cough can create hundreds of blood splatters.
GRACE: OK. Dr. Henry Lee, are your suggesting and I`m showing footage -- no, Liz. I want to see the staircase. Are you suggesting all of this blood is something that she coughed or sneezed?
LEE: Yes. Its so many different explanations. This is one of the explanations. The staircase used a blunt object such as a fire poker to be somebody, it`s impossible.
Nancy, you have to be there at the scene. It`s a narrow staircase. So small, so confined, also have an elevator, disabled elevator chair next to the landing area. If Michael Peterson was, in fact, as Deaver says, used a fire poker to repeatedly beat on her, that fire poker is about two feet long. You are going create a lot of damage on the wall, on the staircase which I did not see it.
In addition you`ll see a castle pattern because each time you lift a blunt object up and down, and you say she was hit seven times we should see seven or eight more blood splatter all over the place called castle pattern. Those medium velocity pattern basically, very confined. And it`s from the bottom goes up which basically shows if somebody`s mouth coughing up. If you`re beating is going have a different type of pattern. So he`s experimentation, the technique he used have a lot of problem, a lot of issue. Of course the conclusion, totally to mislead the jury.
GRACE: Well, interesting that you would suggest that the blood was coughed or sneezed up because there`s absolutely no blood whatsoever in any body cavities and that would include the nose and the mouth. So the theory that you just threw out there is not supported by what I got in my hand and that being the autopsy report.
With me Dr. Henry Lee, who was a witness for the defense. With me now and taking your calls is Kathleen`s daughter, Caitlin Atwater.
Kate Lynn, I want to talk to you about not only what happened to your mom but what happened at the trial because I truly believe that the prosecution is going to retry Michael Peterson. All right.
And I`m not saying Deaver is good. I`m saying Deaver is bad, all right. He padded his resume. He exaggerated some of his testing techniques. That does not in any sense of the word mean that Michael Peterson is innocent. All right.
Could you tell me a little bit about the $1.5 million life insurance to which Michael Peterson was the beneficiary?
CAITLIN ATWATER, VICTIM`S DAUGHTER: I mean like you said, thank you for saying that what happened with Deaver is not necessarily good but doesn`t change a lot of the evidence and there was certainly a big strain going on in my mom`s and Michael`s life around the time of her death.
GRACE: What was that, money?
ATWATER: I believe so. I mean, I was away at college. And I certainly think he know a parent`s would shelter their children from hard stressors in life. Anyone would do that.
But, there was definitely a tone of stress among my mom`s company. You know, her stocks were failing. At one point she called me devastated because she had lay off her own boss that day and I know there was a lot of tension. Christmas was going to be -- it was her favorite time of year which is what makes this such a hard time for us, but it was -- it was definitely going to be a little bit scaled back that year. You could tell there was some tension. And I don`t know -- I know there was a fight over her life insurance policy. She certainly, you know, everything has been sorted out with the court systems.
GRACE: Caitlin, I know from my own research that they were nearly $150,000 in credit card debt. He had been named the beneficiary on a $1.5 million life insurance policy. The stock at Nortel where she had worked had plummeted and she discovered all of his homosexual interests online which, look, I`m not the church lady. I don`t care who does what online unless it`s a crime or evidence in a trial.
GRACE: But, what about Elizabeth Ratliff, his other close friend? He`s the last one he`s with her. She ends up dead at the bottom of the stairs with seven blows to the head just like your mother.
ATWATER: I mean, Nancy, I think that the trial really did speak for itself. It did for me, at least. It was a very long process to go through the mountains of evidence from both the prosecution and the defense regarding Elizabeth Ratliff, regarding the bisexuality, reading everything.
I mean, we dogged through, we listen to it every day in court. And ultimately, it`s very obvious that for whatever reason, a man with a very rage temper, snapped. I wasn`t there that night. But I certainly have seen someone who is capable, certainly, I wouldn`t have said at the time of murder but of harming a fly, of being -- having a violent rage and when you look at the past. When you look at all the secrets he was carrying I think it all speaks for itself.
I mean, I think what really to focus on is the fact that, you know, my mother lost her life because of all of these secrets, because of this mountain of stress and of evidence, and she was a vibrant, amazing smart woman and it`s just devastating.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I`ve always believed. That`s what I thought. I mean, people would say, how do you know she fell down the stairs? Well, she comes in. We have been drinking a lot. She has been drinking a great deal. You find somebody at the bottom of the stairs. I guess they fell down the stairs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Peterson called 911 saying he found his wife bleeding at the bottom of the staircase in their derma state. But the medical examiner determined that Kathleen Peterson died from blows to the head.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kathleen Peterson was found at the bottom of the staircase.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael Peterson was indicted for first degree murder.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michael believes she fall on the stairs and died. The district attorney Jim Harden believes Michael Peterson killed her.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do not get involved in a case in our ability to prove the case.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s no confession. We don`t know if there was a witness or a murder weapon. There seems to be no motive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Peterson`s attorney, David Rudolph said the authorities steamed have jumped to conclusions about Kathleen`s death.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What they need to be looking for --
GRACE: We`re taking your calls tonight. A convicted wife killer is walking free.
You`re taking a shot right now at novelist Michael Peterson, a bestselling author. He claims to have been a war hero. We later learned according to reports that he may have faked a purple heart. But that`s for another forum and another time.
Tonight, I`m concerned that a convicted wife killer is walking free. Why? As Tom Gasparou, newspaper columnist, who covered the trial, just told us one of the state`s witnesses that laid out the blood splatter evidence has now been exposed for padding his resume, padding some of his testing techniques. Not necessarily the outcome in this trial, but his whole credibility is shot. That one witness has cost this and many other convictions for the state.
With me, in addition to Kathleen`s daughter, Caitlin Atwater, Tom Gasparou, who covered the trial. Tom what do you believe is the strongest evidence in this case other than the blood inside Peterson`s shorts when he said his wife died from a fall down the stairs?
TOM GASPAROU, FORMER COLUMNIST, COVERED PETERSON TRIAL (via telephone): Well, the key part of the blood inside his shorts is that it appears to have connected him to the scene, and potentially the murder. As far as it being murder instead of a fall, there were three things really in my mind. One word was the nature of the wounds on the top of her head. Two, was a fractured high weight bone in her neck that testimony showed almost never happens unless somebody is applying direct pressure to the neck. And third, the blood cell evidence which suggested or rather definitively I believe in the eyes of the medical office that Kathleen may have been alive for two hours or more.
GRACE: Are you referring to the red neurons?
GASPAROU: At the pool for two hours.
GRACE: Hey Tom, you`re talk about the red neurons found inside her system.
GRACE: You know what, I`m going to follow up on that right now, Tom. I`m glad you brought that up. Let`s go out to Dr. Marty Makary, physician and professor of public health at Johns Hopkins.
Dr. Marty, thank you for being with us. Two things. Number one the fracture of hiatal (ph). We see in my line of business, I see it when there`s a strangulation or attempted strangulation. And two the red neurons that appear, suggesting it to, well, proving her death took about two hours for her to die. Explain, doctor?
DR. MARTY MAKARY, M.D., PHYSICIAN, PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC HEALTH, JOHN HOPKINS: Well, if you think about it, the back of the neck where the bone structures are, it is so intricate. The neck can handle so much trauma that it takes a certain force from basically a blunt intentional human being creating an injury in order to fracture the bone. It`s a very difficult bone to hit. It doesn`t break when people have high impact car accidents. So, it tells us that ii can only be a human. It tells us it`s only a certain type of abuse like a spiral fracture in a bone in a kid, for example. It can only be from a human being.
The red neuron -- actually the red color is from the staying of the neurons when the neurons rapture, these proteins that are released stay red. And it`s indicative of so much penetration in the areas that are associated with these neurons rapture and once again it`s too severe for a fall. A fall is a short distance relative to the jewels and the force and the energy involved with a human being.
So, all of that independently would not have changed the outcome of the autopsy. The lacerations, the location of the bruises and the red neurons independently would not have change the outcome of that verdict.
GRACE: You know Caitlin Atwater, she`s Kathleen`s daughter with us today. Caitlin, I don`t know if you can see the monitor. I actually hope you cannot. But I`m showing footage of that staircase. Liz, may I please see that again.
You loved your mother so very deeply. And my mother and myself while I was pregnant, I might add, both fell down the same staircase. And if I had to connect this amount of blood to my mother, I don`t even know if I could put one foot in front of the other after seeing that. I want to know how you are keeping on -- why you don`t just wash your hand of the whole system after this reversal.
ATWATER: You know, Nancy, it`s been obviously very difficult. I`ve seen the staircase. I`ve seen the amount of blood. I`ve seen, you know, there`s obviously been a question of the blood splatter expert but it doesn`t change the painful way that my mother, my mother died, and I think for the most part what I tried to do is just focus on the fact that we have moved forward. It`s been ten years. It`s awful that ten years almost to the day, we`re reliving all of this again, reliving it in the news, reliving it, just the evidence rather than focusing on where I`m at in my life, where my family is at, where my mother would want us to be. I`m getting married in the spring and the fact that she`s not going to be there but that she would want that be the focus not this horrible tragedy. She would want us to all, you know, my mother`s family, her sisters, my uncle, we all just want to be together and not focus on this injustice that`s been served to her through this trial, through the re-opening of a horrible time in all of our lives.
GRACE: I want to go to T.J. Ward, private investigator. T.J., he`s on an ankle monitor on house arrest. You know, you can beat -- you can trick an ankle monitor.
T.J. WARD, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: Well, he could. But the way they are designed now, the monitors are, go through the satellite and if you try to cut it off and he has a fenced area, if he goes outside that area then he`s violated. And rest assured if he violates, he won`t be on house arrest he`ll be back in prison or being held in jail until he does go to trial.
So, he`s given a little leeway with this house arrest to have a little bit of freedom and for his next trial. But if he violates or goes outside of that.
GRACE: Right. Back to Aphrodite Jones, host of city crime on investigation discovery, author of "the perfect husband" about this trial. Aphrodite, I know you must have been spinning when you heard about the about the reversal. I think the state has to retry this case. What can you tell me about the purple heart that Michael Peterson got?
APHRODITE JONES, AUTHOR, THE PERFECT HUSBAND: He claimed that two purple hearts. And Nancy, as you know, he served in Vietnam, and clearly they were never found. He lied about the purple hearts. He lied about a lot of things, lived a double life.
But, I want to clarify something important. The red neurons, what`s important about that Nancy, in evidence, is that, that shows that Kathleen Peterson was dead for an extensive period of time, up to two hours before 911 was called. So, that`s blood evidence that has nothing to do with Duane Deaver.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can`t pretend it didn`t happen because I live in the house and every moment there`s a reminder of Kathleen anywhere. So, I mean, I can`t forget it and I don`t particularly want to forget it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: A convicted wife killer walks free tonight.
Out to the lines. Peter in Florida. What`s your question?
PETER, CALLER, FLORIDA: Hey there, Nancy. You know, I watched you for many years, starting with court TV, and I really like your style. You`re a terrific lady.
GRACE: Thank you.
PETER: I have a comment on question. Did he ever collect on the insurance policy that he had on his wife?
GRACE: Good question, I can tell you the answer is, no. When you`re convicted of murder, that kind of ruins the whole life insurance policy payout thing, Peter in Florida, but he was the beneficiary named.
Unleash the lawyers. Gloria Allred, Peter Elikkan, Darryl Cohen.
Gloria Allred, I retried a murder case about 15 years old. It is not impossible. What do you think, Gloria?
GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY, VICTIM RIGHTS ADVOCATE, HOST, WE THE PEOPLE: Well, it obviously is a call by the district attorney, but no, it is not impossible to get a conviction on a second trial, and sometimes even after a third trial. Sometimes mistrials, there`s two, and I`ve seen a conviction on third trials.
PETER ELIKKAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes. I agree. Every case is different. Some cases after 10 years, they lose evidence, witnesses died, police office they can`t find them, et cetera. And you lose the case. Other times they`re perfectly intact.
GRACE: Darryl Cohen?
DARRYL COHEN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think it is possible certainly to get a conviction. But it reminds me so much of O.J. and Mark Fuhrman, I think we have tainted evidence and the jury is going to remember it.
GRACE: Daryl, Daryl, Daryl, you know what? You used to make so much sense when you were a prosecutor. What went wrong?
Let`s stop and remember army staff sergeant Matthew Pucino. 34, Cockeysville, Maryland. Killed in Afghanistan. A special forces green Beret, awarded purple heart army commendation overseas service ribbon on a third tour. Also served Iraq. Loved weightlifting, his nieces and nephews cooking Sunday Italian dinners. Leaves behind parents Katherine and Albert, sisters Lisa and Melissa. Matthew Pucino, American hero.
Thanks to our guests, but our biggest thank you is to you for being with us.
Especially good night from the New York control room. Bret, Liz, Greg, Dana, and from all of us, thank you for being with us.
See you tomorrow night, 8:00 sharp Eastern where we in our own way will be seeking justice.
And until then, good night, friend.