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Novelist convicted of murder injured in prison fight

By Matt Bean
Court TV

Peterson, left, shown during his trial.
Peterson, left, shown during his trial.

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(Court TV) -- The 8-by-9-foot cinder block cell that Michael Peterson now calls home is equipped with a bed built into the wall, a sink and toilet, and even a small writing desk. But on Tuesday evening, Peterson might have traded all those amenities for a simple deadbolt.

According to prison officials, the convicted killer was hospitalized after a fight inside his cell at about 7:30 p.m. The cause of the fight remains uncertain.

"We're still conducting our investigation trying to determine what happened, and how many prisoners were involved," said Bonnie Boyette, the chief administrator at the Nash Correctional Institution in Nashville, North Carolina. "We will be readdressing his housing status to determine if he is appropriately housed here."

Until then, Peterson will remain confined to his cell. Boyette would not comment on the specifics of his injuries, but said the novelist was "doing fine."

Peterson was convicted October 10 of bludgeoning his wife, Kathleen Peterson, to death on December 9, 2001.  He claims that his wife of five years fell down the steep rear stairwell of their Durham home. His attorney has filed notice of appeal.

Peterson began serving his life sentence without the possibility of parole at Nash about a week ago. Some precautions were taken to ensure the safety of an inmate whose case was heavily covered in the local media.

Whereas some of the inmates are housed in a day room, a central area where prisoners can mingle, Peterson was given his own cell.  And prison guards, said Boyette, were notified that Peterson was on his way.

In all, however, prison officials appeared to treat Peterson as they would any other prisoner. The dust-up that landed him in the hospital came at a time when all cell doors were open to allow prisoners access to the day room, and other prisoners could have entered his cell at will.

"The inmates could come and go," said Boyette. "We have 640 men from various backgrounds. When you're housed in that kind of setting, of course you're going to have fights. It's not an everyday occurrence, but it's going to happen."

Nash is one of nine of the state's "close-housing" facilities, which deal with the most serious offenders. Prisoners who feel threatened can request protective custody, ensuring they are isolated from the rest of the population.

According to Boyette, Peterson would be transferred to another close-housing facility if he requests protective custody.

Peterson's attorney, David Rudolf, did not return a request for comment.

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