Case to be dropped; man in prison for 16 years

KALKASKA, Mich. (AP) - A northern Michigan prosecutor is dropping charges against a man who has spent 16 years in prison for the death of a retired school counselor, a lawyer said last Friday.

The disclosure was made in a Kalkaska County court. Judge Janet Allen recently ordered a new trial and threw out Jamie Peterson's rape and first-degree murder conviction. DNA tests that weren't available at trial in 1998 have ruled him out as the attacker in the death of 68-year-old Geraldine Montgomery.

"We believed this was coming," said Peterson's attorney, David Moran of the Innocence Clinic at University of Michigan law school. "The evidence shows Mr. Peterson had nothing to do with this murder."

Peterson was to stay in jail until Monday when prosecutor Mike Perreault formally drops the case, Moran said.

"He's happy to be getting out but, frankly, a little apprehensive after all these years," Moran told The Associated Press. "Mr. Peterson has a lot of needs."

He said arrangements were being made to take Peterson to a residential mental health facility. A message seeking comment from Perreault was not immediately returned.

Montgomery's body was found in the trunk of her car in 1996. After a 20-day trial in 1998, Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder and first-degree criminal sexual conduct and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

There was no physical evidence linking him to the murder, but Peterson made incriminating statements to Kalkaska police - a point repeatedly emphasized by prosecutors when they had urged the judge in April to let the conviction stand.

Moran, however, said it was a false confession.

"Anybody who talks to Jamie Peterson for a few minutes will see he will say whatever you want. He's a vulnerable young man. ... Everything he said was stuff the police already knew," Moran said.

DNA evidence has led to charges against another man, Jason Ryan. His trial is scheduled for December.

Published: Tue, Sep 09, 2014

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