The Staircase is a 2004 series about the trial of Michael Peterson in the death of his wife Kathleen in Durham, North Carolina.
8 out of 10 stars. This story is gripping, but way too long. There are 13 hour-long episodes which easily could’ve been condensed into four episodes.
On December 9, 2001, Kathleen Peterson had several drinks with her husband Michael Peterson, took a valium, and headed inside to go to bed. On her way, she was attacked by a large owl. She rushed inside, trying to fight off the owl, and ran up the spiral staircase. Then she fell and went unconscious at the bottom of the stairs. Her husband Michael found her and immediately called 911. The callous 911 operator didn’t dispatch an ambulance right away and was asking him stupid questions like how many stairs are there? She didn’t give him instructions to try to stop the bleeding or to administer CPR. In fact, she did nothing but make matters worse. Kathleen died while waiting for an ambulance.
In the subsequent months, the District Attorney completely ignored all indications that Kathleen was attacked by owl and fell down the stairs. Instead, he hid this evidence and charged Michael, her husband, with the crime. Owl attacks were common in this area and they found pine needles and owl feathers in Kathleen’s hair. She had a blood alcohol level of 0.7 so she wasn’t in any shape to fight off a large owl (which in this area are the size of dogs). The District Attorney assembled his own group of “experts” whom he knew would lie for him. And he charged full speed ahead attacking Michael as a parent, a husband, and a former Marine.
What came out during the investigation of Michael Peterson was that he was bisexual. His wife knew, and the children knew, but outside of the family no one knew. The District Attorney made the trial about homosexuality instead of murder.
Eventually Michael is convicted on the false testimony of the DA’s experts. Only eight years later does the state overturn his conviction when they discover the District Attorney’s experts have been falsely giving “expert” testimony. By then Michael has lost eight years of his life and most of his money. Adding insult to injury, Kathleen’s greedy daughter and sister sue him for millions of dollars which was their goal all along.
8 out of 10 stars. If I learned anything from this documentary series, it’s to stay out of North Carolina and certainly NEVER move there. We should have laws in this country to prosecute District Attorneys and their lying witnesses.