Freda Black, the former assistant district attorney who prosecuted Michael Peterson in his 2003 murder trial, was reportedly found dead in her North Carolina home. She was 57.
Durham Police spokesperson Wil Glenn told USA Today that Black’s body was sent to the medical examiner for an autopsy but her death “does not appear suspicious at this time.” Glenn said officers found her body after relatives requested a welfare check because they hadn’t heard from her for several days.
WRAL reported that Black helped convict Michael, a novelist and one-time mayoral hopeful, of the first-degree murder of his wife, Kathleen. Kathleen was found lying in a pool of blood at the bottom of a staircase in their ritzy Duram home in 2001. However, the Superior Court judge overturned the conviction in 2011, finding that an analyst misled jurors regarding blood found in the family home.
Black stepped down as assistant district attorney in 2005, after Mike Nifong became district attorney and requested her resignation.
Afterward, the ex-prosecutor unsuccessfully ran twice for Durham County district attorney in 2006 and 2008. In 2010, she ran for the bench in Durham County District Court, a bid that also ended in defeat, The Herald Sun reported.
In 2013 and 2015, Black pleaded guilty to driving while impaired and had her license revoked. Court records obtained by the newspaper said Black was charged in 2016 with driving with a revoked license, which was related to her DWI convictions.
The high-profile trial came back into the spotlight this summer when Netflix released “The Staircase,” a documentary based on the murder.
USA Today noted that the former prosecutor is the second person featured in the docuseries to die in recent weeks. Retired Charlotte detective Ron Guerette, who investigated Peterson case, died June 19 at age 73.
Superior Court Judge Jim Hardin, who acted as Durham district attorney from 1994 to 2005, speculated that Black’s troubled final years could be contributed to her leaving the criminal justice system.
“When she left the D.A.’s office, she was no longer able to do that,” Hardin told The Sun, calling her “absolutely fearless” in the courtroom.
“I honestly believe that was a significant contributor to some of the problems that she had.”
[Featured Image: Freda Black/AP Photo/Sara D. Davis, File]