Local News

Michael Peterson: 'The Staircase' on Netflix revisits Durham case

Posted June 7, 2018 1:25 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 1:39 p.m. EDT

On Friday, June 8, Netflix is releasing a revised, expanded version of "The Staircase" -- the 2004 documentary series about the murder of Durham businesswoman Kathleen Peterson and the murder trial of her husband, the novelist Michael Peterson.

Kathleen Peterson was found dead in a pool of blood at the bottom of a staircase in the family's upscale Durham home on Dec. 9, 2001. Michael Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder in October 2003. "The Staircase" documentary, by French director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, premiered on French television in 2004 and quickly became an international success, including winning a Peabody Award.

But the story didn't end there. In December 2011, Michael Peterson was released from prison and a new trial was ordered after it was revealed that a blood analyst with the State Bureau of Investigation, one of the key witnesses, had given misleading testimony.

After years of continuing legal battles, the new trial was finally scheduled for May 2017. It was canceled that February, when Michael Peterson agreed to enter an Alford plea to a charge of voluntary manslaughter -- an Alford plea allows a defendant to maintain his or her innocence while acknowledging that the prosecution has enough evidence to win a conviction. Peterson, who was sentenced to time served, said he agreed to the plea rather than run the risk of being convicted again.

De Lestrade has updated "The Staircase," adding three new episodes covering the developments in the story since then.

WRAL covered the murder, the trial and the appeals as they happened, conducting multiple interviews with Michael Peterson and members of the Peterson family. The following is a collection of videos from that coverage. At the end, you'll find links to even more coverage, including an interactive timeline, a collection of court documents and day-by-day coverage of the original murder trial.