- Additional Details
- Format: Color, DVD-Video, NTSC
- Rating: Not Rated
- Number of Discs: 1
- Run Time: 50 Minutes
- Region: Region 1
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Language: English
- Studio: A&E Home Video
- DVD Release Date: 2002
A look at the controversial case of North Carolina author Michael Peterson, convicted of murdering his wife, a high-powered business executive. At the trial, the prosecution showed that Peterson stood to collect a large amount of life insurance if his wife died. But the defense claimed that the police were seeking revenge against Peterson for articles he had written critical of them in the local paper.
On the night of December 9, 2001, police were called to a 10,000-square-foot mansion in the exclusive Forest Hills neighborhood of Durham, North Carolina, the home of 58-year-old author Michael Peterson and his 48-year-old wife, Kathleen. When police arrived they found Kathleen dead, lying in a pool of blood at the bottom of a back staircase.
Peterson told police his wife had been drinking that night and must have fallen accidentally. Yet blood spatter that covered the stairs, and a medical examiner's report showing seven gashes on Kathleen's head, indicated otherwise. Eleven days after his wife's death, Michael Peterson was indicted for first-degree murder, but has always maintained his innocence. This episode of INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS examines his controversial case.
Peterson's extensive trial included many twists and turns. A death had occurred in Peterson's life 16 years earlier that was eerily similar. It was also shown at trial that Peterson had been living a secret bi-sexual life that included Internet pornography and correspondence with a male prostitute. And it was revealed that the Peterson family finances were in a shambles, and that Michael could collect a sizeable amount of life insurance if his wife died accidentally.
The defense claimed that the police were seeking revenge against Peterson for articles he had written critical of them in the local paper, and surmised that Kathleen Peterson's injuries occurred when she fell down the stairway, revived and then fell once again. But the jury didn't buy it, finding Michael Peterson guilty of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole. His conviction left behind a family fractured, and a defense team baffled that it had not established reasonable doubt.
For over ten years, AMERICAN JUSTICE has been the gold standard of criminal justice programming, tackling today's toughest issues through the cases that challenge and change the law. Told by key players from police to the victims to the perpetrators, it offers a rare, inside view that enables viewers to understand the complex legal principles at stake. Hosted by Bill Kurtis.