- 1 Season
The Staircase is a six part documentary exploring the murder trial of novelist Michael Peterson, and by extension the American justice system. Directed by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, the film begins with the scene of the crime. In December 2001, Kathleen Peterson was found in a pool of blood at the bottom of a staircase at the family home in Durham, North Carolina. Her husband Michael called 911 and reported the accident, but police immediately become suspicious that her death is a homicide due to the blood splattered scene and the number of injuries she suffered. Both the prosecution and defense teams allowed the filmmakers access to their preparation for the trial. The film includes interviews with the accused murderer, as well as his adult children. As each side prepares for trial, Peterson's life, marriage and sexual orientation become part of the case for and against him. Many surprising twists occur in the case, from his stepdaughter's alignment with the prosecution, to the discovery of a disturbingly similar death in his past. Another woman was found dead at the bottom of a staircase, when Michael was the last person to see her alive. The documentary covers the case from the first police video of the crime scene, through the trial and verdict. Peterson allows the cameras to remain during family dinners and strategy discussions with his attorneys, so the film captures every aspect of a defendant with life imprisonment hanging over his head. The murder scene is covered in detail, with many grisly autopsy photos and discussion; therefore the material may be best suited to mature audiences.