If anyone played the role of villain in the documentary series The Staircase now streaming on Netflix, it wasn’t Michael Peterson, the man accused of murdering his wife, Kathleen. It was Duane Deaver, the blood spatter analyst who played an integral role in sending Peterson to jail for 8 years before it broke that he had grossly misrepresented not only his own qualifications but also the evidence of the case. So, what happened to him after that?
We’ll catch you up on Duane Deaver quickly in case you’re unfamiliar with him and why he’s such a controversial figure. If you haven’t finished streaming The Staircase, though, be warned that there are spoilers ahead.
Who is Duane Deaver?
Duane Deaver was the blood spatter analyst on the Michael Peterson case, which is why you’ll see him during the first trial in The Staircase. He was working for North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation (later referred to in the documentary as just the SBI) in 2002 during the trial, so he was called as an expert by the defence.
How did Duane Deaver influence the Michael Peterson trial?
Duane Deaver presented evidence that the blood spatters on the walls in the Peterson home were consistent with a blunt force trauma injury, arguing that the most likely cause was Michael beating Kathleen to death in the stairwell. He presented several “experiments” he had run to replicate the blood spatters on Michael Peterson’s shoes and shorts to prove that the source of the blood would have to be below him, or that he was standing over Kathleen as he hit her in the head.
The defence called forensic and blood spatter experts of their own who disagreed with Duane Deaver. Their experts claimed that if the crime had been a beating, there would have been cast off patterns of blood on the far wall or ceiling, of which they found none. Nevertheless, the jury ultimately found Peterson guilty of first-degree murder and he was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole.
The Staircase, since it follows the principle players in the case for so long, features one interview with David Rudolf, Peterson’s primary defence lawyer, many years later in which he claims to have spoken to at least one juror after the decision was handed down. That person claimed that though they were split in their decision at the beginning of deliberations, Duane Deaver’s testimony and the evidence he presented came to play a larger role in their ultimate decision and may have been the key piece presented that decided the case.
What was revealed about Duane Deaver
There was finally a break in Michael Peterson’s case due to another case entirely. Peterson had exhausted his chances for appeal until it was discovered that on another case Duane Deaver had failed to report blood tests results that would have been helpful to the defendant, Greg Taylor. Taylor’s conviction was finally thrown out as a result, but not until he had already served 19 years for a murder he did not commit.
After a hearing on the subject, Judge Orlando Hudson Jr. ruled that Duane Deaver had perjured himself during the Michael Peterson trial and, therefore, Peterson deserved a new trial. Peterson ended up accepting an Alford plea instead of going through another trial.
But what happened to Duane Deaver?
At first Duane Deaver was only suspended from the SBI while they conducted an investigation into his past work. It was discovered that throughout his almost 25-year career at SBI that he had falsified evidence in 34 different cases and he was ultimately fired from the agency in 2011. But his history with the SBI is a little more complicated than that.
After his dismissal, the State Human Resources Commission ruled on Duane Deaver’s behalf in 2014 that the analyst was wrongly terminated in 2011, WARL reports. He should have been demoted and had his pay cut by 10%, the commission decided. The agency was forced to rehire him and award him 30 months of back pay before firing him again. But the commission did note that Duane Deaver could have rightly been fired after the hearing in 2013 that determined he had perjured himself during Michael Peterson’s 2003 trial.
Duane Deaver’s LinkedIn profile listed him most recently as serving as the Director of Operations at ISS Facilities in Texas, The Wrap reports, though the LinkedIn profile was removed at the time Metro tried to access it.