CRIME

Novelist calls Alford plea most difficult thing he's done

The Latest on a hearing for a novelist accused of his wife's death (all times local):

1:55 p.m.

Michael Peterson said making an Alford plea in the death of his wife 16 years ago is one of the most difficult things he's ever done.

Peterson spoke to reporters on Friday inside the Durham County courtroom after making the Alford plea to a charge of manslaughter, which means he agrees that the prosecution has enough evidence to convict him, but can still say he's innocent.

Peterson says the next most difficult thing was to sit through his trial and listen to what he called "lies, perjury, fake evidence, made-up evidence." He was sentenced to life in prison before a judge released him, saying prosecution witnesses had done flawed tests and misled the jury.

Peterson then put on a pair of sunglasses and left the courtroom.

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12:10 p.m.

The novelist originally sentenced to life in prison in 2003 for the death of his wife at their North Carolina mansion is now a free man.

But before Michael Peterson left the Durham County Courthouse on Friday, both he and defense attorney David Rudolf received a scolding from Candace Zamperini, who called Peterson's account of her sister Kathleen's death a "fictionalized story."

The 73-year-old Peterson made an Alford plea to a manslaughter charge during a hearing Friday in Durham County Superior Court. Under the plea, Peterson can still say he's innocent while agreeing the prosecution has enough evidence to convict him. Zamperini called the plea "meaningless."

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3:23 a.m.

The man once sentenced to life behind bars for the death of his wife in their North Carolina mansion expects to leave a courthouse as an officially free man.

Michael Peterson says he's agreed to accept an Alford plea in the 2001 death of his wife Kathleen, whose body was found at the bottom of a staircase. That means he agrees the prosecution has the evidence to convict him though he still maintains his innocence.

His attorney says prosecutors have agreed to sentence him to the eight years he already served. He's been out of prison since 2011, when a judge ordered a new trial.

In an interview Thursday with The Associated Press, Peterson says he no longer theorizes on how his wife died. He says all he knows for certain is that he "absolutely, positively" had nothing to do with her death.