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‘Warrior in the courtroom’ is recalled by colleagues who mourn attorney Pat Peters

Pat Peters
Pat Peters

Patrick W. Peters, a former Jackson County assistant prosecutor who later found success at the defense table, died Saturday from a disease, cryptococcal meningitis, that is said to be rare in healthy people. He was 62.

His wife and law partner, Shelley Peters, said Peters had been battling the illness since early November after he traveled to Arizona to conduct depositions for a case.

“With most people, apparently our immune system would fight it and kill it,” Shelley Peters said. “They do not know why his did not, but it didn’t.”

Peters was hospitalized Nov. 13 “and it just went from bad to worse,” she said.

Peters was well-respected by prosecutors as well as defense attorneys.

“Pat was a warrior in the courtroom, known for fighting for his clients,” Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker tweeted on Monday.

Former federal prosecutor John Osgood, now in private practice, said Peters “was a great trial lawyer and a friend.”

Peters’ father, William J. Peters, was a Jackson County circuit court judge.

Peters graduated in 1985 from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law. As an assistant prosecutor in Jackson County for eight years, Peters often handled murder cases, including seven death penalty cases. He ran for Jackson County prosecutor in 1992 but lost to Claire McCaskill, now a U.S. senator from Missouri. In 1995-96 Peters was deputy attorney general for Kansas for the criminal division.

McCaskill said in a statement: “Pat Peters was one of a kind. Whip-smart, charming, tenacious, and incredibly talented. While he was capable of driving people he disagreed with crazy, it was because his creativity and passion simply wouldn't stop.”

In private practice Peters often took on the defense in high-profile murder cases, including that of a University of Central Missouri student and Saudi national accused of hiring someone to kill a Warrensburg bar owner in 2012. The charges eventually were dropped.

Peters also defended a Kansas City lawyer accused of killing his law partner in 2000. A Missouri appeals court ruled that evidence against him should be thrown out. Peters represented one of five people convicted in the 1988 arson explosion that killed six Kansas City firefighters.

“He was a legend in the legal community,” Shelley Peters said. “He was the person everyone called when they needed advice or a creative idea. He was the best trial attorney, in my opinion, in the city.”

Osgood called Peters “the rock star” of the Jackson County prosecutor’s office. “He did a lot of death cases and may have sent more people to death row, or as a many as anyone else that worked there. Then he was just as vigorous as a defense attorney.”

According to healthline.com, “meningitis is an infection and inflammation of the meninges, which are the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can be due to many different germs, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses.”

Arrangements for a celebration of life are pending.

Matt Campbell: 816-234-4902, @MattCampbellKC

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