Michael Peterson is a free man after wife’s murder case ends in plea deal

Novelist Michael Peterson walked out of a Durham, North Carolina, courtroom on Friday as a free man after taking a plea deal in a 15-year-long murder case.

The News & Observer reports that 71-year-old Peterson has been fighting a murder case against him since the December 9, 2001, death of his high-powered executive wife, Kathleen Peterson. Kathleen was found at the bottom of a staircase in the couple’s Durham mansion, lifeless and covered in blood.

Since day one, Peterson has always maintained his innocence, but his wife’s sisters kept pushing for police to press charges against him, claiming that they felt Peterson killed Kathleen. In 2003, he was found guilty of murder, and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The case garnered worldwide attention and inspired a French film crew to create a documentary surrounding Peterson’s endless appeals. In 2011, Peterson was granted a new trial. For five years, he’s fighting to have the murder charges against him dropped. This month, however, the prosecution and Peterson finally reached an agreement when he agreed to take an Alford Plea.

By taking the Alford Plea, Peterson walked out of the courtroom as a free man. There’s a catch, though. Although he didn’t admit guilt, an Alford Plea mandates that he’ll still be considered a felon, and the conviction will not be removed from his record. Kathleen’s sisters were upset to see Peterson walk free, but they found a bit of relief in the fact that he’d still be a felon.

According to Durham County Assistant District Attorney Jim Dornfried, prosecutors agreed to the Alford Plea because evidence that helped convict Peterson in his first trial would not be inadmissible in a second trial.

Meanwhile, Peterson told reporters that there was no victory, and he’s not celebrating the case by any means.

“I don’t see it as victory at all….I can live with this. It’s not fair. It’s not right. I’m innocent, and yet I’ve got this verdict there.”

Peterson’s case spurred several successful true crime books, including Aphrodite Jones’ “A Perfect Husband,” and Diane Fanning’s “Written in Blood.”

[Feature Photo: AP/ Skip Foreman]