|Written by||Jean-Xavier de Lestrade|
|Directed by||Jean-Xavier de Lestrade|
|Country of origin||France|
|No. of episodes||13|
|Running time||44-55 minutes|
|Production company||Maha Productions|
|First shown in||France|
The Staircase (French: Soupçons, lit. ''Suspicions''; also known as Death on the Staircase) is a 2004 French television miniseries by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade documenting the trial of Michael Peterson, convicted of murdering his wife, Kathleen Peterson.
Following from de Lestrade's Oscar-winning Murder on a Sunday Morning, filming began soon after Peterson's indictment. Camera crews were given access to the accused's extended family, the defense attorneys, and the courtroom.
An abbreviated version was broadcast as a special two-hour presentation of American news show Primetime Thursday on July 22, 2004. The miniseries was completed in September 2004, and premiered in October on Canal+, from January 10–14, 2005, on BBC Four (as part of its Storyville documentary series), and from April 4–25 on Sundance Channel.
Lestrade returned to film Peterson and his family in 2012–2013, covering developments in the case that were released as a two-hour sequel. Three new episodes with further updates were later made for Netflix, and in 2018, the streaming channel added all 13 episodes to its catalog, making it available as one series.
In December 2001, novelist Michael Peterson called to report that his wife Kathleen had fallen down a set of stairs in their Forest Hills mansion and died. The authorities disbelieved Peterson's story that Kathleen had fallen while drunk and concluded instead that he had bludgeoned her to death, most likely with a blow poke (a gift from Kathleen's sister) that was discovered missing from the house. Peterson was soon charged with murder. The film details the ensuing case from the point of view of Peterson and his defense team, led by David Rudolf.
During the trial, it is discovered that while Peterson was living in Germany, a family friend died from an intra-cerebral haemorrhage, followed by the body falling down stairs after collapsing, which resulted in similar head injuries to those sustained by Peterson's wife. An investigation by German police and U.S. military authorities concluded that the death was accidental, and Peterson ended up adopting the woman's two daughters. The prosecution introduce this death into the trial as an incident giving Peterson the idea of how to "fake" Kathleen's accident. During the trial, Peterson's daughters stood steadfastly by their father.
The prosecution argues that Kathleen had discovered that Michael was bisexual and had been having affairs with men, which led to an argument in which he bludgeoned her to death. Peterson claimed that his wife knew about his sexuality and that they had an open marriage. He claims to have been outside by their pool when Kathleen fell down the stairs and injured herself. A defense team re-creation shows that it would have been possible for Peterson to have missed his wife's cries for help had he been by the pool. The jury ultimately convicts Peterson.
Reviews for The Staircase were generally positive. The film received an "exceptional quality" rating (8.5 out of 10) from Documentary-Review.com based on nine reviews. It won a Peabody Award in 2005.
This section needs to be updated.December 2018)(
In April 2012, it was announced that Lestrade was working on a two-hour follow-up film to The Staircase for French broadcaster Canal+, after Michael Peterson was released from jail, pending a retrial. The sequel, subtitled "Last Chance," premiered at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam in November 2012. It aired on Canal+ on January 30, 2013, and on BBC Four's Storyville on February 4. Sundance Channel aired a shorter alternative cut, presenting "Last Chance" as two new episodes of the original miniseries, airing March 4 and March 11, 2013.
On November 23, 2015, Lestrade announced a second follow-up film at the IDFA Forum. Originally announced as Staircase III, the film documents the story of Peterson's final trial, set for early 2016. The film was commissioned by Canal+. Last Chance producer Matthieu Belghiti of What's Up Films was also attached. It was later picked up by Netflix to be released as three new episodes of the miniseries, together with the previous 10 episodes, on June 8, 2018. The first of the new episodes premiered on April 28, 2018, at the Tribeca Film Festival.
A dramatic limited series adaptation of the docuseries, to be co-produced by Annapurna Television and HBO Max, was announced in March 2021. The series is set to star Colin Firth as Peterson and Toni Collette as his wife Kathleen, with Antonio Campos and Maggie Cohn both attached as writers and showrunners.
|1||"Crime or Accident?"||47:00|
|Following his wife's suspicious death, Michael Peterson speaks about his version of the events while lawyers and expert witnesses prepare for trial|
|2||"Secrets and Lies"||46:00|
|As Michael's hidden life comes out into the open, defense experts debate if it will have a significant impact on the coming trial.|
|3||"A Striking Coincidence"||46:00|
|The defense team is shaken when a suspicious event from the past comes to light. Later, the team visits Michael's first wife in Germany.|
|4||"A Prosecution Trickery"||44:00|
|As the trial looms and media attention heats up, an autopsy report's wording ruffles the feathers of the defense team.|
|5||"A Weak Case"||47:00|
|The prosecution presents its case while the defense strives to cast a reasonable doubt within the minds of the jury.|
|6||"The Prosecution's Revenge"||47:00|
|A witness brings surprising levity to the stand, the judge rules on an important matter, and Michael's alleged temper comes under scrutiny.|
|7||"The Blow Poke Returns"||50:00|
|Kathleen's sister pore over Michael's writings. Jurors visit the staircase at Michael's home. A vital piece of evidence reappears.|
|Is Michael Peterson guilty or not guilty? The jury delivers its verdict regarding the mysterious death of his wife, Kathleen.|
|9||"Reopening The Case"||55:00|
|Eight years later, the possibility that a key witness for the prosecution may have misled the jury could prompt the need for a new trial.|
|10||"The Last Chance"||52:00|
|After more experts testify about the questionable conclusions and claims of Duane Deaver, the judge rules on whether a new trial is necessary.|
|11||"Looking for Closure"||52:00|
|Following two and a half years of house arrest, Michael must decide whether to push for a plea or risk his freedom with a new trial.|
|12||"Between Anger and Despair"||46:00|
|Their faith in the justice system forever shaken, Michael and his family discuss what they can hope to achieve by continuing the fight.|
|Michael speaks to a reporter about the reasons behind his plea. Later, Kathleen's sister delivers a statement of defiance in court.|
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- Court TV coverage Archived 2006-01-27 at the Wayback Machine
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- Trumbore, Dave (May 22, 2018). "Netflix Continues Your True-Crime Obsession with 'The Staircase' Trailer". Collider. Retrieved May 23, 2018.
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- "Trial & Erorr Detective". The New Yorker. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
- White, Peter (March 31, 2021). "'The Staircase': Colin Firth To Star In TV Drama Adaptation Of Classic True Crime Documentary For HBO Max From Antonio Campos & Maggie Cohn". Deadline. Retrieved March 31, 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Petski, Denise (April 29, 2021). "Toni Collette To Play Kathleen Peterson In 'The Staircase' Limited Series For HBO Max". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 30, 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)