Traverse City Record-Eagle


Kalkaska man to be set free from murder conviction

Friday, September 5, 2014 6:15 pm
By MICHELLE MERLIN
mmerlin@record-eagle.com

TRAVERSE CITY — It took nearly two decades, but attorney Robert Carey believes justice finally has been served.

Carey's former client, Jamie Lee Peterson, is set to be freed from prison, 16 years after his conviction for the 1996 rape and murder of a Kalkaska woman. On Friday Kalkaska County's prosecutor said he'd drop charges after new DNA evidence failed to match Peterson to the crime.

"I'm very elated," Carey said. "It's been a long wait, 18 years, to finally get justice, but we did get justice today and I'm happy about that."

Kalkaska County Prosecutor Mike Perreault said in court Friday that he won't pursue new charges against Peterson, 39, Peterson's new attorney David Moran said.

Peterson was convicted of Geraldine Montgomery's rape and murder in 1998, but 46th Circuit Court Judge Janet Allen vacated his conviction on Aug. 14. Peterson's case returned to the local court after a sample of DNA found at the scene of the crime was retested in 2013 and found to match someone else.

Peterson's new lawyers said his many confessions to the crime were false.

“Time and time again facts were fed to him and when he got facts wrong, the officers told him he got the facts wrong and told him when he got the facts right,” said Moran, one of Peterson's lawyers from the Michigan Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School. “That’s a real red flag when you see somebody who doesn’t get the facts right initially. That’s a real indicator that you have a likely false confession.”

Lawyers at the Michigan Innocence Clinic and Center on Wrongful Convictions at the Northwestern School of Law took on Peterson’s case.

Attorneys originally tried to retest the DNA in 2002, but then-circuit court Judge Alton Davis declined to have it retested because he ruled it was immaterial to the case and no new technology existed at the time.

“We’re grateful to Mr. Perreault, who agreed when we went to him in 2013 that this DNA should be tested,” Moran said. “That should have been done many years earlier.”

Perreault did not return requests for comment.

The crime scene DNA turned out to be a match to Jason Anthony Ryan, 36, of Davison, who was charged in Montgomery's death in December.

Carey said the legal system atmosphere in Kalkaska now is quite different from the one that surrounded Peterson's conviction 16 years ago.

"We had a well-known, respected lady in our community ... that was brutally raped and murdered right in the middle of town," Carey said. "There was a lot of pressure to catch the perpetrator and string him up. When Jamie came along and gave those confessions, it was a gift from heaven."

Peterson, who has a history of mental illness, will be sent to a transitional facility to adjust to his new freedom, Moran said.

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