Viciously, Relentlessly, Attacked

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Than Fiction:
Trial Commentary

Peterson Case


"He was profoundly and deeply shocked by Kathleen's death, but nobody inside the courtroom could really feel his pain and have a sense of his personal tragedy."
-- Jean-Xavier de Lestrade

Lestrade and Poncet's 2002 Oscar

Jean-Xavier says he believes police arrested Michael Peterson -- not because he was the only person with his wife when she suffered blunt force trauma to the head -- but because he's bisexual. He feels Durham County DA, Jim Hardin, prosecuted Peterson -- not because the mountain of evidence points to him and him alone -- but because he's bisexual.

Jean-Xavier says he truly thinks jurors convicted Michael -- not based on testimony from the State Medical Examiner's office -- but based on evidence Mr. Peterson was bisexual.

So Lestrade's thesis is exceedingly clear: Michael Peterson is the victim. Michael was attacked. Michael's life was destroyed in a hateful, horrible, series of premeditated criminal acts.

As for Michael's dead wife, Jean-Xavier says he doesn't know what happened to her.

Peterson autopsy diagram

After spending two years closely chronicling Kathleen Peterson's case, the Academy Award winning filmmaker reports he can't decide if she was savagely beaten to death or simply fell down the steps.

Lestrade is content to leave Mrs. Peterson out of the picture because -- he claims -- there's not enough evidence for him to decide on what happened. Kathleen Peterson's brutal demise baffles Jean-Xavier.

"To me it is still a mystery," Lestrade writes.

Although Mrs. Peterson's death on the staircase remains a big mystery to Jean-Xavier, he's absolutely certain about what happened to Mr. Peterson.

"He was on trial not because they had physical evidence that he did it," Lestrade opines, "but because he was bisexual and he had a way of life that was not common. It was about who he was."

In fact, nowhere in his movie does Lestrade show any evidence that Michael was arrested, prosecuted or convicted because of his sex life, and yet Lestrade repeatedly makes the claim.

Michael Peterson has made similar statements, but he limits the conspiracy to his dead wife's family. In a dark and awkward moment of Lestrade's movie, Peterson says:

"There's a trial because of Candace and Caitlin. If Caitlin had said 'I know Mike, he raised me for 13 years, Mike would never have hurt my mother' -- and she DID say this in the beginning -- and if Candace had said 'Oh, I knew them, they were a loving couple,' and if she'd continued to say that, there would have been no trial."

In order to sustain such bizarre statements about being persecuted, Mike Peterson -- and Jean-Xavier de Lestrade -- are forced to minimize the reality of Kathleen Peterson's brutal murder. In interviews and promotional materials, Jean-Xavier repeatedly asserts the Durham District Attorney, Jim Hardin, was a weak lawyer with a flimsy case.

Judge Hardin

Months after gaining a conviction in the Peterson trial, James E. Hardin Jr. was honored by Lawyers Weekly USA and named one of America's Top 10 Lawyers of 2003.

In April of 2005, North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley's office announced that Jim Hardin would become a superior court judge.

"Jim Hardin's nearly two decades as a prosecutor has prepared him to accept the responsibilities of a Special Superior Court Judge," Easley said in a statement. "I am confident that he will bring the same commitment and dedication that was displayed during his 11-year tenure as District Attorney to this judgeship."

Hardin also serves as Acting Staff Judge Advocate for the 108th Division of the United States Army Reserve, holding the rank of Lt. Colonel.

No Accident