Peterson’s suit against MSP officials to continue

By: 
Dennis Mansfield, Contributing Writer

GRAND RAPIDS – Legal battles related to the murder of a Kalkaska woman more than two decades ago will continue, according to recent reports.

The news comes after a federal appeals court judge ruled earlier this summer that two Michigan State Police investigators involved in interrogating Kalkaska native Jamie Peterson – who had been charged, convicted and then exonerated of the 1996 murder – do not have immunity.

Peterson, now 44, was convicted in 1998 of the rape and murder of then 68-year-old Geraldine Montgomery at her Kalkaska home two years earlier.

Peterson, had completed a 15-year sentence for a criminal sexual conduct charge, unrelated to his 1998 conviction on charges including first-degree premeditated murder, first-degree murder, first-degree criminal sexual conduct and larceny from a building for the murder of Montgomery during the evening hours of Oct. 5-6, 1996.

He had also served nearly three years for the charges relating to Montgomery’s murder, having been sentenced as a habitual offender to life imprisonment without parole, before former 46th Circuit Court Judge Janet Allen ruled in September 2014 in favor of a defense motion to set aside his conviction and potentially pave the way to a new trial.

That was also after attorneys from the Michigan Innocence Project and the Northwestern University Center on Wrongful Convictions persuaded Kalkaska’s prosecuting attorney to have the material evidence tested again. The retested DNA evidence found on Montgomery eventually led to the arrest of a second suspect, James A. Ryan of Davidson, in December 2014.

Ryan was later found guilty and sentenced in Kalkaska’s 46th Circuit Court to life in prison without parole on the murder charges, as well as 60 to 120 years on the rape charge.

Believing the retesting of evidence and Ryan’s arrest have exonerated Peterson, his attorneys first filed the lawsuit on his behalf, reportedly alleging that investigators coerced Peterson into confessing, fabricated evidence, withheld exculpatory evidence and then maliciously prosecuted the then 22-year-old Kalkaska man.

"Jamie Peterson served nearly two decades in prison for a murder he had absolutely nothing to do with,” said Peterson’s attorney, Gretchen E. Helfrich, at the time in a prepared statement. “Nothing will give Jamie back those years, but with this suit we hope to hold those responsible accountable for their appalling abuse of power.”

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