Prelude-A “play by play” watching the final episodes of “The Staircase”- June 2018
I’m watching further chapters of the Staircase about the Michael Peterson Murder Case “Last Chance” and “Looking for Closure.” After the horrendous evidence that got Peterson a new trial, are the fake SBI agent Dwayne Deaver – proving he lied and misrepresented his credentials and experience for years, and in many cases.
In 2014 Peterson was taken off of ankle monitoring and was unable to make a plea deal with the new District Attorney because the late Kathleen Peterson’s family insisted he plead guilty. He repeatedly stated he would NEVER publicly admit guilt. The victim’s family wishes win out and no Alford plea was offered. An Alford Plea..is a guilty plea in criminal court, whereby a defendant in a criminal case does not admit to the criminal act and asserts innocence.
David Rudolph, Peterson’s dedicated attorney, announced he can’t carry on as the attorney with another trial. Another lawyer, Mike Kliksumn, will retry the case.
Two years later, August 12th, 2016, the new attorney discovers new evidence that Kathleen’s clothes were never tested for DNA, as Deaver’s assistant switched the requests so that he could control the process. None of the other evidence was never tested properly. Peterson’s attorney was hoping for a dismissal.
Circumstances change before Attorney Kliksumn is set to argue for a dismissal, he has a CVA- stroke. The second chair attorney is forced to take over the case and presents photos of the mishandling of all physical evidence which appears to be just thrown in a box, ripped, and contaminated. There was also evidence from another case co-mingled with the unprocessed evidence from the Michael Peterson case.
Forensic expert Tim Palmbach thoroughly testifies to the contamination of the evidence, affecting the theories of the crime!
Although the Peterson family no doubt are victims as well, they are not considering the squeaky wheel sister of Kathleen Peterson, Candace Zamperini as the ultimate victim, too. The new DA and the judge don’t want to deal with her wrath, and they do have rights as well. The Alford Plea versus the rights of Kathleen’s family is the subject of long conversations. Will they throw the dice and go to trial again? Now David Rudolph re-enters the case and is appointed by the judge because Peterson is indigent.
On February 22, 2017 Michael Peterson decides he will plead to voluntary manslaughter which would imprison him up to 229 months. He states he’s not taking the Alford Plea because he is old, or for his family’s sake, but because he doesn’t trust the system to give him a fair trial.
The bottom line is there was no usable evidence because of all the handling errors. Peterson is sentenced to 64-84 months, with time served (98 months) considered, he was free.
Dealing with the Wrath of Crime Victim Candace Zamperini-
Candace Zamperini to David Rudolph – “Alford- Smalford…”
Defense Attorney- David Rudolph – “…They would rather lose a trial than deal with Candace…”
I believe The Staircase misrepresented the motives of Durham County’s new District Attorney and totally ignored the fact that Candace Zamperini and her sister, Lori Campbell, had every right in the world to have their say on behalf of Kathleen’s memory in court by providing a victim impact statement under the North Carolina Crime Victim’ Rights Act.
“North Carolina law encourages victim impact testimony. The North Carolina Constitution includes a Victims’ Rights Amendment that gives victims the right “to be heard at sentencing of the accused in a manner prescribed by law . . . .” N.C. Const. Art. I, sec. 37.
The implementing statute for the constitutional provision is G.S. 15A-833, which says that a victim “has the right to offer admissible evidence of the impact of the crime, which shall be considered by the court or jury in sentencing the defendant.” That evidence may include a description of the injuries (physical, psychological, or emotional) the victim has suffered as a result of the offense, an explanation of any economic or property loss it caused, and a request for restitution. G.S. 15A-833.
Law enforcement agencies and prosecutors should make a reasonable effort to assure that each victim of a crime has a victim impact statement prepared for consideration by the court. G.S. 15A-825(9). No victim is required to offer evidence, but the court is not to draw any inference from the victim’s decision not to testify. The victim’s testimony may be offered through a representative of the district attorney’s office or a law enforcement officer, but only at the victim’s request and with the consent of the defendant. G.S. 15A-833(b).”
Episode 13 titled “Flawed Justice” features the events before, during and after the sentencing. Kathleen’s sister Lori Campbell presents a victim impact statement less than one minute long referencing the fact that Peterson was convicted, but wrong that he will be set free, ending with “Closure is for a door, not for my murdered sister.”
Candace Zamperini, in 4.5 minutes, paints a vivid picture of her rollercoaster of emotions. She begins by describing her first meeting with former prosecutor, Jim Hardin, in which the autopsy photos and crime scene photos, she calls her “Pandora’s Box” were shared. She believed they became her evil, the horrors, showing the beatings prolonged her sister’s death. She described each injury which spurred her on to bear the responsibility of the fight for justice for her sister.
She then lashed out at “The Staircase” filmmakers, a film that was completed without her family’s consent. She claimed the film was an opportunity for Michael Peterson to pontificate regarding his innocence and incompetence of law enforcement and the justice system.
She railed at the hurtful statements made by Peterson in the film and twice referenced the fact that he blamed Candace and daughter Caitlin for him being on trial and “not keeping her f….ing mouth shut.”
Candace clearly viewed the Alford Plea as a technicality, ignoring the “not asserting innocence” part of the arrangement. The fact that Peterson was considered a convicted felon who had more than served his time to date, did not fit her emotional mindset.
Candace then personally attacked Defense attorney, David Rudolph, claiming that they avoided her, attributed super powers to her, listing verbal slights as mispronouncing her sisters name, inappropriately handling clothing without proper protection, conspiring against Candace, etc. Regardless of insults and injury, Candace stated that the jury focused on the evidence.
She then spoke from the heart that Kathleen truly loved Michael Peterson, his children, opened her home and heart, and was essentially the best person who came into his life. Candace reiterated the charge of involuntary manslaughter, that he’d be a convicted felon forever, losing his livelihood, his home, keeping his indigent status .
She ended her moving statement by saying how Michael Peterson can wear the scarlet letter ‘A” for Adultery and the black letter “G” for Guilty.”
In her parting comments, Candace concludes her statements by saying, “This hearing today is almost as close to justice as can be found. Not perfect justice, but justice” Through it all, Michael Peterson and David Rudolph, in particular, sat stone faced, seemingly incredulous by Candace’s heartfelt testimony.
I know better than most, that there is no right or wrong when it comes to creating the content of a personal victim impact statement. We cannot, and should not, judge the lexicon. However, we can bear witness to the ebb and flow of emotion interwoven with their truths and the resulting impact it creates. That is what freedom of speech is about. We should always admire the courage of every crime victim standing on the precipice of being a survivor as they deliver their statement.
To view this episode of the Aftermath of “The Staircase” on Netflix:
If you are a homicide survivor with a reasonable amount of time in which to seek help with writing a victim impact statement refer to the following link-
If you need assistance with writing a professional Victim Impact Statement, please refer to the Victim Impact Statement FAQ’s on this site.
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