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James Lyon

The Staircase (contains verdict spoilers)

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I went on a viewing run of Netflix crime documentary series recently; Making a Murder, Evil Genius, The Keepers, and this one. I'd have to say, while the others have been fascinating in their own right, this was the best so far. Why so? I think, not just that it provides the most in-depth access given how it follows it subject through the whole case, but that it also tried to give it a bit more of an opportunity for the other side to have its say. Obviously, it wasn't completely balanced; it was weighted on finding him innocent, yet I think there were times where the doc gave viewers space to think for themselves and decide if Petersen was the man he said he was.

 

Like any of the other series, I was prepared to play armchair detective and see if I could spot the clues that had been missed. However, much like Making a Murderer there was, by necessity, things missing from the documentary than what actually appeared in the court case. Not so much as in that other series to make you think about him in another light, but you always feel a bit short-changed that not everything they show on screen is comprehensive. I don't think they mentioned the owl theory at any point, for one, did they?

 

Do I think he did it? I don't know. I was prepared to keep an open mind, but I was almost sure the verdict would come back not guilty and the last few episodes would just be then discussing how to improve the justice system. All the arguments the defence put forward would say he didn't, so it's interesting to see things from another perspective,. Afterwards, we watched an episode of Forensic Files on the case (it's also on Netflix, Season 11, Episode 22). Watching that, you'd definitely consider him guilty, even if it does contain an interview with the discredited Deaver. I'd recommend watching that as well to see how it compares.

 

My interest in the series was mostly watching how a court case comes together. I'd seen plenty of fictional courtroom dramas, but I was surprised how much they adhered to real life: the character assassination, objections, trying to get evidence removed from the case and so on. It illustrated a court process that didn't seem entirely fair to the victim regardless of if he did it or not. Just the fact of cases taking years to resolve and hundreds of thousands of dollars was enough to make you despair. Petersen lost it all just to prove his innocence and the judge even said he would have done things differently at another time. That sounds pretty terrible.

 

Anyway, lots more to say, but what did everyone else think?

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It’s an incredibly interesting case. As I said in the Netflix thread, I’ve watched the whole thing a few times and it’s always fascinating.

 

In my opinion, he didn’t do it. And that’s even when you consider some of the very questionable things in his past, namely the suspicious circumstances of the family friends death in a similar manner. I still don’t think the motive was there.

 

Worth also giving the BBC podcast ‘Beyond Reasonable Doubt’ a listen, which very much feels as if they’re on the ‘he did it’ side of the fence. Peterson was not happy with the way he was portrayed on it, but ends up giving the guy an interview.

 

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I watched this year's ago on YouTube, and assume they largely kept it the same for Netflix. Guilty as hell as far as I'm concerned. I thought the BBC Beyond Reasonably Doubt podcast was great. They were very scathing about the French film crew who made the staircase, accusing them of being very bias, even to the point of one of there team being in a relationship with Michael Peterson. 

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14 minutes ago, Bazjam said:

I watched this year's ago on YouTube, and assume they largely kept it the same for Netflix. Guilty as hell as far as I'm concerned. I thought the BBC Beyond Reasonably Doubt podcast was great. They were very scathing about the French film crew who made the staircase, accusing them of being very bias, even to the point of one of there team being in a relationship with Michael Peterson. 

 

Would be interested to know why you thought him guilty. I would think the general opinion on here would swing toward innocent. Have you watched the follow-up stuff on the appeal? Does the BBC stuff go into it? 

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I watching this recently myself and I thought it was fantastic. I've only watched the Staircase and from that viewing I would have said he should have been found innocent, but it would be interesting to watch another show about the case and then reconsider. I thought the Owl theory was really interesting. 

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We stopped watching this after about 3 episodes. We just found it boring and uninteresting. 

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1 hour ago, James Lyon said:

 

Would be interested to know why you thought him guilty. I would think the general opinion on here would swing toward innocent. Have you watched the follow-up stuff on the appeal? Does the BBC stuff go into it? 

It's not fresh enough in my mind to remember the details to be honest, but both me and my wife felt he was more likely to be guilty. A lot to do with the coincidence of the previous death and the unlikeliness of a fall causing those injuries if memory serves correct. I liked The Staircase, and the access they have is amazing, but I felt the BBC podcast was more thorough. It goes up to him pleading guilty (without admitting the crime) to close the case, which I presume is where the Netflix version takes it to.

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The Netflix series has three new episodes that weren’t part of the original series, which bring the story right up to date, so it’s worth going back to if you haven’t seen it for a while.

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Also, Elizabeth Ratliff's children look remarkably like Michael Peterson, which makes me think there's a lot more to that story than what was told.

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The Forensic Files episode details how one of Michael's sons was at the murder scene long before the police but refused to talk about what went on. Something the documentary omits. It also gives more of an idea of Kathleen's wealth and success compared to Michael and her life insurance policy naming him as the benefactor, facts that fit a motivation far easier than anything else.

 

If he did to it, then the troubling thing is the length the prosecution would go to secure a conviction. If you believe the documentary that they lied and missed out evidence, then that's morally unacceptable even if they thought the end justified the means and deserves to be dismissed. The defence may be no better, though. It's just harder to see.

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15 hours ago, Mystacon said:

Worth also giving the BBC podcast ‘Beyond Reasonable Doubt’ a listen, which very much feels as if they’re on the ‘he did it’ side of the fence. Peterson was not happy with the way he was portrayed on it, but ends up giving the guy an interview.

 

Didn’t know about the podcast so thanks for that.

 

Anyone else hear the rumour that Peterson had a 10 year affair with the (female) editor of The Staircase?

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Just watched the Forensic Files episode.

 

Wow, they really ramp up the drama in that show don't they? That said, it certainly is interesting that more information is shed that they don't touch on in the documentary. And the fact that Peterson supposedly had a relationship with one of the filmmakers makes me think again.

 

In summary, who the hell knows, maybe he did it, maybe he didn't. Argh!

 

 

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34 minutes ago, Mystacon said:

In summary, who the hell knows, maybe he did it, maybe he didn't. Argh!

 

 

That's pretty much the point of the court case to find out. :)

 

As his lawyer pointed out, it should never have been guilty or innocent. It should have been guilty and not proven guilty. It just shows that there's too many factors to prove either way. Can you really base a decision on the previous staircase incident in Germany as an unfortunate coincidence or proof that lightning never strikes twice if you don't have the evidence to back it up either way?

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I was certain he did it, by the end certain he didn't. Either way there's plenty of reasonable doubt and the owl theory is pretty good. Also no one talks about all the valium and alcohol she'd had. I think it was a bottle of wine and at least 10mg, and I can barely walk after a couple glasses when I've had that much valium.

 

And if he did do it, how did he manage not to damage her skull? Where are the defence marks?

 

I love Peterson's realisation early on that poor people just go to jail. The whole thing is pretty damming of the justice system. 

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The three newest episodes should really have been two. Felt a bit padded out and like they’d run out of steam a bit.

 

Still fantastic overall. I’m not sure if he did or not. 

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On 08/07/2018 at 19:09, James Lyon said:

Afterwards, we watched an episode of Forensic Files on the case (it's also on Netflix, Season 11, Episode 22).

 

This is "Collection 2, Episode 36: A Novel Idea" on UK Netflix for anyone trying to find it. For some reason, it's not split into seasons, just chunks of 40 episodes.

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Yeah I recently have watched this over a course of about a week.  I think it might be my favorite but I still always am hoping for a 'JINX' at the end of these shows now :( 

 

I don't think he did it either, I don't think anyone could ever hold it together with so many friends/family without tripping up somewhere. Yet I still think falling down the steps sounds absurd given the consequences, during the early stages of the series I was actually thinking one of the kids had done it and managed to escape or that Michael knows that one of the kids did it and has helped them cover it up. That theory started to dismantle as the show went on though. I guess I'm left with nothing more than just the most unfortunate craziest fall and set of reactions down a badly designed/maintained staircase. 

 

 

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I think the problem with the show overall is there is no perspective from the prosecution side. Which makes it weaker. Not a fault of the documantarian, as the prosecution pulled out after the first episode and the family of the perceived victim did not want to give their side after a while either. Just hurts it overall but can't be helped. 

 

Personally I don't think he did it. Even if he did there isn't any evidence to say he did. They only won because of deaver  and his hokey pseudo science.

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It’s a very interesting case and just like Making a Murderer enough to make you completely lose faith in the justice system given the dirty tricks played in presenting the very limited evidence against Peterson.

 

In the end the burden of proof in this sort of case is beyond reasonable doubt and the prosecution singularly fail to manage it. They don’t have a murder weapon by the end of the trial, a convincing theory for how he actually managed the deed given the wounds or any significant motive.  

 

On balance I’m far from convinced he’s innocent, based mainly on his elusive presentation and the frankly difficult to discount similarity to the Ratcliff case but on the evidence presented there is no where near enough for a sustainable conviction.

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11 hours ago, dreamylittledream said:

 and the frankly difficult to discount similarity to the Ratcliff case but on the evidence presented there is no where near enough for a sustainable conviction.

 

Like the lawyer (Rudolf) jokes early on in the series, I just can't imagine the concept of a serial staircase killer. He would be the worst serial killer ever as it's just so unpredictable if your victim would die or not. If it was an accident from an argument, I just can't imagine that happening twice.

 

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I just watched this over a few days with the football slowing down.

 

Thought it was fantastic, especially the first 'original' part, now need to go off and see what was biased or left out.

 

Its such an odd case as presented, I found him and his family very weird, but he's utterly compelling in his claims of innocence - but even taking aside the awful prosecution shenanigans (that southern woman with the weird eyebrows was just awful) the body at the bottom of the stairs didn't really seem to chime with it being just a fall.

 

I don't know how he maintained his sense of calm and lack of anger thru being in jail for so long for a crime he didn't commit, the calm made me think it felt like he knew he deserved it, or maybe it was just a coping mechanism.

 

Then again there is nothing as cynical as a defence lawyer, and for them to work pro-bono for so long after the original prosecution means I'm sure they believed him, this wasn't simply restoring their reputation for a big loss on film was it ?

 

The contradictions like this make it such an interesting story.I agree with several views above, I don't think they proved he did it, I'm inclined to think he didn't do it but don't buy the prosecution or defence explanations in full of what actually happened. 

 

I know I'm heading off down an internet rabbit hole or two now reading more about this .............

 

https://www.wral.com/former-durham-prosecutor-charged-with-dwi/14375377/

 

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It always struck me that Rudolf firmly believed that Peterson didn't do it. Whether it was his job or not he never seemed in any doubt about it.

 

And just how vile were the victims sisters? Especially that blonde one. I cringed every time she was given the chance to speak in court. How Peterson kept it together during her insane rantings is beyond me.

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Why was she so sure he did it? She'd only meet Peterson once before so the "accident" so the relationship with her sister can't have been close anymore.

 

I do feel we are missing something, or maybe she's just a raving homphobe. 

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good recommnendation above for this show, this sure is a different take on things

 

https://www.netflix.com/watch/80085632?trackId=13752289&tctx=0%2C35%2Ccbfe5d6c-ffdb-4fcc-a8cb-0a9f7519705e-4238420%2C%2C

 

Its a bit like an episode of 'To Catch A Predator' on Arrested Development but does show some forensic evidence the Staircase left out.

 

I knew this was going to be a rabbit hole, just read on reddit about Martha's diary being up on the lawyers wall in the 'bad things' list - wonder what that is all about.

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3 hours ago, Pete said:

Why was she so sure he did it? She'd only meet Peterson once before so the "accident" so the relationship with her sister can't have been close anymore.

 

I do feel we are missing something, or maybe she's just a raving homphobe. 

 

She comes across as a proper mentalist that’s for sure. Have a bit of respect woman.

 

It’s actually pretty disgusting that the DA was allowed to play the whole bisexual card so strongly. I get that they were trying to portray the marriage as less than perfect, but things like bringing in the male prostitute were total cringe.

 

On a side note, re: Forensic Files. I can’t believe that series was made in this millennium, some of the people in it look like proper freaks.

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One of the most powerful scenes for me was when Kathleen's sister gave the speech to the court right before Michael took the Alford plea. So many years and she still hadn't let go of the hatred, just like Petersen had never backed down on his innocence. Their faces, as they sit there listening to her diatribe, try not to crack into whatever you believe would belie the truth.

 

And I think, at that moment when she attacks the documentary itself, I felt guilty for what the documentary did to her and her own family. She and her sister and niece obviously had their own convictions and whatever they knew about the defence's claims couldn't sway them. It's just a shame the epilogue would never get her to sit down and explain why she still thought what she did. I'm sure it must be in some other media somewhere, though.

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Beyond Reasonable Doubt (the brilliant BBC podcast on this case) has returned for some more episodes due to the Netflix show. First one came out today, and they've finally got the interview they have been trying to get with the French director of The Staircase.

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On 14/07/2018 at 17:36, James Lyon said:

One of the most powerful scenes for me was when Kathleen's sister gave the speech to the court right before Michael took the Alford plea. So many years and she still hadn't let go of the hatred, just like Petersen had never backed down on his innocence. Their faces, as they sit there listening to her diatribe, try not to crack into whatever you believe would belie the truth.

 

And I think, at that moment when she attacks the documentary itself, I felt guilty for what the documentary did to her and her own family. She and her sister and niece obviously had their own convictions and whatever they knew about the defence's claims couldn't sway them. It's just a shame the epilogue would never get her to sit down and explain why she still thought what she did. I'm sure it must be in some other media somewhere, though.

This is covered a lot more on the BBC podcast.

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