Watch The Staircase

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.

Maha Productions
1 Season, 12 Episodes
April 4, 2005
Documentary & Biography
8.2/10
Cast: Michael Peterson, David Rudolf, Ron Guerette, Tom Maher
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The Staircase Full Episode Guide

  • Exploring new developments in the case of author Michael Peterson, who was accused of murdering his wife in North Carolina.

  • Shocking discoveries provide new insight in one of the most complex murder trials of recent times. 8 years ago, Michael Peterson was found guilty of killing his wife. There may just be one chance left to appeal

  • In chapter eight, tension rises as the jury deliberates Peterson's fate. Oscar®-winning documentary filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade chronicles the sensational story of North Carolina author Michael Peterson, who stood trial in 2003 for the murder of his wife. Granted unusual access to Peterson's lawyers and his immediate family, de Lestrade presents a gripping look at a high-profile murder trial from the inside.

  • In chapter seven, a surprising discovery comes to the attention of the defense. Oscar®-winning documentary filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade chronicles the sensational story of North Carolina author Michael Peterson, who stood trial in 2003 for the murder of his wife. Granted unusual access to Peterson's lawyers and his immediate family, de Lestrade presents a gripping look at a high-profile murder trial from the inside.

  • In chapter six, a reluctant witness rivets the attention of all in the courtroom. Oscar®-winning documentary filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade chronicles the sensational story of North Carolina author Michael Peterson, who stood trial in 2003 for the murder of his wife. Granted unusual access to Peterson's lawyers and his immediate family, de Lestrade presents a gripping look at a high-profile murder trial from the inside.

  • In chapter five, the prosecution presents its case... and produces the murder weapon. Oscar®-winning documentary filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade chronicles the sensational story of North Carolina author Michael Peterson, who stood trial in 2003 for the murder of his wife. Granted unusual access to Peterson's lawyers and his immediate family, de Lestrade presents a gripping look at a high-profile murder trial from the inside.

  • In chapter four, the eve of the trial is overshadowed by a damning report in the press. Oscar®-winning documentary filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade chronicles the sensational story of North Carolina author Michael Peterson, who stood trial in 2003 for the murder of his wife. Granted unusual access to Peterson's lawyers and his immediate family, de Lestrade presents a gripping look at a high-profile murder trial from the inside.

  • In chapter three, a death that occurred 17 years earlier sparks a new investigation. Oscar®-winning documentary filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade chronicles the sensational story of North Carolina author Michael Peterson, who stood trial in 2003 for the murder of his wife. Granted unusual access to Peterson's lawyers and his immediate family, de Lestrade presents a gripping look at a high-profile murder trial from the inside.

  • In chapter two, a hidden aspect of Michael Peterson's life comes to light. Oscar®-winning documentary filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade chronicles the sensational story of North Carolina author Michael Peterson, who stood trial in 2003 for the murder of his wife. Granted unusual access to Peterson's lawyers and his immediate family, de Lestrade presents a gripping look at a high-profile murder trial from the inside.

  • In chapter one, Peterson relates his version of the fatal events of December 9, 2001. Oscar®-winning documentary filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade chronicles the sensational story of North Carolina author Michael Peterson, who stood trial in 2003 for the murder of his wife. Granted unusual access to Peterson's lawyers and his immediate family, de Lestrade presents a gripping look at a high-profile murder trial from the inside.

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The Staircase is currently available to watch and stream on Maha Productions. You can also buy, rent The Staircase on demand at Netflix, Sundance Now, Google Play online.