Saturday, January 10, 2009

Climbing The Stair Case

You know how you find something that you loved and had kind of forgotten about for years, and then you remember how great it was?

I just rediscovered the amazing documentary "The Stair Case," about the Michael Peterson murder case in North Carolina. Man, is it riveting. I can watch it over and over.

Peterson was an author of Vietnam novels with some shady things in his own past...he'd lied about war medals and injuries, apparently, and he and his second wife seemed to be monetarily overextended, and he was e-mailing male escorts for sex. Then his wife was found dead at the bottom of a staircase in their Durham mansion with blood everywhere.

Her death seemed somewhat similar to another death 18 years ago of a friend of Michael Peterson's...another woman who died at the foot of a staircase, this time in Germany. After her death, he had taken in her two baby daughters. At the time of the second murder, they were young adults who completely defended their father, believing he had nothing to do with either the death of their birth mother while they slept upstairs in Germany, or the death of his second wife, the woman they had called "Mom" for years.

The coverage of the case, by a French documentary team, is firmly on the Peterson side, but that doesn't make the documentary any less riveting. And each different bit of evidence makes you swing your opinion as to what really happened.

I find myself wanting Michael Peterson not to be guilty, if not for him for the two daughters who had already lost one mother before this one. But there is just so much blood. If I had been on the jury, I do not think I could have gotten past that. Maybe I would have needed David Rudolf, his defense attorney, to bring in expert after expert to show me pictures of accidental falls with that much blood and that many vicious head wounds, because in 2007, my father fell down a staircase carrying a bookcase and suffered brain damage, and I do not think there was blood like this.

If you don't want to buy or rent "The Stair Case" on DVD, they are currently showing it on Sundance Channel, though I believe they are more than halfway through the series.


Unknown said...

That was a truly great documentary series. I watched it not knowing anything about the case and the twists were jaw-dropping. It is totally entertaining as well for people who like legal procedurals. Incredibe behind the sceens access to the defendent.

I think your post gives away too many spoilers for those who haven't seen this or know much about it. Still it would be worth watching if you knew about the trial.

What about Dr. Lee's testimony? Having seen his reputation and TV series, I'd have to think he was a very credible expert, but the jury didn't think so.

I did fall down stairs once and woke up in a huge pool of blood.

I wish I had know they were airing this, I'd watch again, hadn't noticed it, though.

Joanne said...

Thanks, Gael, I had no idea about this documentary, although I've read a book on the case. I totally thought he did it from the book, it would be interesting to see another side.

Bea said...

Thanks for the rec. I just added this to my Netflix queue. Although it makes me a bit nervous. I tend to fall down the stair a LOT. :(

Anonymous said...

I work in Durham and followed the case as it was happening years ago. Although I believed him to be guilty the whole time I was shocked that he was actually convicted. Have you heard about The Owl Theory? That's pretty entertaining :)