Freda Black, Prosecutor in Michael Peterson Trial Featured in ‘The Staircase’ on Netflix, Is Dead

August 1, 2018 Updated: August 1, 2018

Freda Black, best known for being a prosecutor in the infamous 2003 murder trial of Michael Peterson, now featured on the Netflix documentary, ‘The Staircase’, has died aged 57.

Durham police confirmed that Black was found dead at her home on July 29 around 3:30 p.m., according to Fox News. Police arrived at her home after being alerted by a family member who hadn’t been able to contact her for a few days.

Her death “does not appear suspicious at this time,” and her body has been sent to the State Medical Examiner for an autopsy, police spokesperson Wil Glenn told USA Today.

Black, who was an assistant district attorney in Durham County from the early 1990s to 2005, was one of the prosecutors who, in 2003, helped to convict former novelist Michael Peterson for the murder of his wife, Kathleen. Kathleen Peterson was found dead at the bottom of a staircase in the couple’s home in December 2001.

Black is best remembered for her closing arguments in the 2003 Michael Peterson murder trial.

Her death comes shortly after a documentary “The Staircase,” which features the trial, was released on Netflix in June in a 13-episode series.

Black ran for Durham County district attorney in 2006 and 2008, but lost both times.

Peterson, a former novelist and former Durham mayoral candidate was found guilty of killing his wife, and was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 2003. He was released in 2011 on a $300,000 bail and was placed under house arrest, when a judge ordered a new trial owing to a testimony that was determined to be misleading in the initial trial.

In 2017, Peterson took an Alford plea to a lesser charge of manslaughter. The Alford plea meant he would continue to assert his innocence while admitting that the prosecutors had enough evidence to convict. Peterson was sentenced to eight years, which he had already served. As such, he has been out of prison since 2011.


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