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The Staircase (2004)
4.05 (38 votes)

The Staircase (2004)

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In December 2001, novelist Michael Peterson called to report that his wife Kathleen had fallen down a set of stairs and died. The authorities disbelieved Peterson’s story that Kathleen had fallen while drunk and concluded instead that Peterson had bludgeoned her to death, most likely with a fireplace poker which was discovered missing from the house.


Peterson was soon charged with murder and the film details the ensuing case from the point of view of Peterson and his defense team. During the trial it is discovered that while Peterson was living in Germany a family friend of his 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 US military authorities concluded that the death was accidental and Peterson ended up adopting the woman’s two daughters. The prosecution introduced 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 stand 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 where 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 recreation 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.

Michael Peterson @ Murderpedia

IMDB (8.4/10)

Order the DVD from Amazon

Episode 2 – “Secrets and Lies”

Episode 3 – “A Striking Coincidence”

Episode 4 – “A Prosecution Trickery”

Episode 5 – “A Weak Case”

Episode 6 – “The Prosecution’s Revenge”

Episode 7 – “The Blowpoke Returns”

Episode 8 – “The Verdict”

Watch the second part:

  • JohnJameson

    Last line is”We’re all guilty of being human and the happiest and most well off people on this earth will go STRAIGHT to hell, sooner if not later. Life is a fyukin travesty.

  • Forbidden Fruit

    Well this is biased in favor of the defendant. They failed to mention:

    – There was a $1.4 million life insurance policy on Kathleen. She was also the owner of the home, the car and had $350k in pension funds and her 401(K).

    – It was said that their (her, actually) net worth was around $2M.

    – Michael’s sons were all heavily in debt. His sons were not even close to being able to afford to pay the interest on their loans – much less reduce the principal.

    – Michael had no income and had not had any income to speak of for a long time.

    – Michael was having affairs with male prostitutes. Kathleen had left her previous husband for “cheating”.

    – There was a drop of blood on the inseam of Michael’s shorts.

    – There was blood on the inside of the front door and a drop of blood was found on the porch.

    – Analysis of her brain revealed the presence of red neurons that suggest she had been alive for 45-120 minutes after her blood loss began – a neuropathologist testified that in his experience 120 minutes was the minimum she was alive for after her initial blood loss.

    – The two paramedics who responded to the call arrived ten minutes after his initial call and both noted that the blood was very dry when they arrived In the week leading up to the death he deleted a ton of files from his computer and after that installed a program designed to make deleting files easier.

    Let’s not even get into the fact that he was present when ANOTHER woman fell down the stairs to her death previously. This dude is a narcissistic creep who deserves to be in prison. “I whispered her name into my heart a thousand times”. GTFOH.

    • OMG girl..there was not a single doubt in my mind but this information just sealed his fate with me-if I were juror or judge..GUILTY-FRY the MFR! (and the funny thing is that I am more about giving every human being the benefit of the doubt) And I am not for throwing someone straight into the chair, especially when they’re claiming innocence. But I DO believe that chair should be utilized for persons just like this dude..sick individuals who cannot be cured!

  • Forbidden Fruit

    Also, there’s a huge difference between bisexuality & infidelity. His wife may have known he was bisexual, but that’s not the same as giving him permission to have sex with random men. Bisexuality does not imply cheating. Michael was cheating on his wife; the gender of his partners is irrelevant. And she’d left a previous husband for cheating on her.

    • Absolutely right $parkle Puss! You drove it home, the matter of which gender he was screwing is irrelevant by all accounts. It IS the fact that he was cheating that matters as well as the fact that there was definitely a chance that she was threatening to leave. And I’m sure that alone nearly drove him mad thinking of what would come out about him to their friends and families, even if she knew of the homosexuality and promised she’d keep it a secret, I’m sure he wasn’t sitting well with the thought of what was going to become of his reputation and in other cases where the killer was the type of person that HE is..they had wild fantasies inside their minds that made them believe that they were much more important and admired than they actually were and so they felt the extreme need to protect that because their ego was feeding off of that “fantasy” that seemed so real to them.

  • Having absolutely NOTHING to do with bisexuality, I could not stomach this total BS beyond the second episode, about 1-2 minutes into the “witness coaching” musical that I couldn’t even fast forward through quickly enough to have any desire left to watch this clear cut case of a brutal murder that definitely occurred by the hands of this sick man who is sick because he did this and not because he liked getting it on with men!
    I immediately saw what was absolutely NO accident! Even to the untrained eye, this was violent. Mind you, I have seen cases that turned out to be completely bizarre that appeared to be without a doubt, a homicide, yet turned out to be factually proven cases of accidental deaths.
    So even when I think that there is no way the “who dunnit” suspect isn’t guilty by all accounts, I still bounce back to being as objective as possible and accept that there is a possibility, always.
    One such trial constantly had me completely torn over guilt or innocence was the O.J. Simpson case..
    Even as terrible an actor as he was, even O.J. had you convinced!
    This dude is a self-centered, egotistical, maniacal, murderous prick. He probably paid every witness that testified on behalf of his defense, including his own children.
    He wanted his “Hollywood” moment and although it wasn’t exactly Hollywood, he got his movie. Too bad it ended with no winners, no heroes and no sense to be made out of the whole mess.
    There are some V.C. Andrews, dark family secrets probably still looming in that family to this day. Secrets that will probably never fall on ears of people outside of it for generations to come. Now there is where the real and interesting mysteries and stories will be, but this was just a sad, senseless and brutal murder. Period.

  • That’s bc he knew that he had a job to do but he also knew that this prick did it! He threw the comp.

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