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cover: Staircase, The (2004) - d1/2

Staircase, The (2004) - d1/2

Director(s): Jean-Xavier de Lestrade

Theatrical Release: 2004

Cast: Michael Peterson

Genre(s): TV, Documentary, crime, Thriller, Dean's List

Countries: USA

Location in store: Television

(1 / 1)
Ant Rating
Running Time: 192m.

Oscar winning documentary filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade (MURDER ON A SUNDAY MORNING) helms this Sundance Channel production. Based on the 2003 trial of an author named Michael Peterson, who was accused of killing his wife, de Lestrade lets some fascinating material unravel on the screen. Taking the viewpoint that Peterson was innocent, the director paints a picture of an unfortunately framed man whose wife died an accidental death. The eight-part series is presented here in its entirety, offering plenty of food for thought on the case itself, and on the American justice system. (



Chapter 1: Crime or Accident?

Michael Peterson recalls the night of December 9, 2001, which began with dinner, wine and a rented movie, and ended with his wife Kathleen's death. After Peterson is charged with murder, his attorney David Rudolf begins working with the investigators and experts who will be critical to Peterson's defense.

Chapter 2: Secrets & Lies

Shocking revelations about Michael Peterson's private life pose new issues for his defense team, as it becomes clear that the prosecution will use these details to torpedo characterizations of the Peterson marriage as idyllic.

Chapter 3: A Striking Coincidence

In the spring of 2002, the case takes another surprising turn when prosecutors turn their attention to the 1985 death of Elizabeth Ratliff, a military widow who was found dead at the bottom of the stairs of her home in Germany. The last person to have seen Ratliff alive is believed to have been her close friend and neighbor, Michael Peterson. Peterson subsequently adopted Ratliff’s two daughters, who must now deal with new accusations against the man who raised them.

Chapter 4: Prosecution's Trickery

The defense team is forced to contend with the prosecution’s latest bombshell concerning the death of Elizabeth Ratliff. In April 2003, there is a pre-trail hearing regarding evidence, a proceeding that ends with yet another twist. On July 1, 2003, the trial begins with opening statements.