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The Staircase 

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The high-profile murder trial of American novelist Michael Peterson following the death of his wife in 2001.
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2018   2013   2004  
2 wins. See more awards »



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Series cast summary:
Michael Peterson ...  Himself 8 episodes, 2004
David Rudolf ...  Himself 8 episodes, 2004
Ron Guerette ...  Himself 8 episodes, 2004
Tom Maher ...  Himself - Defense Attorney 8 episodes, 2004
Bill Peterson ...  Himself 8 episodes, 2004
Freda Black ...  Herself 7 episodes, 2004
Jim Hardin ...  Himself 7 episodes, 2004
Arthur Holland ...  Himself 7 episodes, 2004
Todd Peterson ...  Himself 7 episodes, 2004
Margaret Ratliff ...  Herself 7 episodes, 2004
Martha Ratliff ...  Herself 7 episodes, 2004
Clayton Peterson ...  Himself 6 episodes, 2004
Patricia Peterson ...  Herself 6 episodes, 2004
Caitlin Atwater ...  Herself 6 episodes, 2004
Bettye Blackwell Bettye Blackwell ...  Herself - Juror 5 episodes, 2004
Lori Campbell ...  Herself - Kathleen Peterson's Sister 5 episodes, 2004
Kellie Colgan ...  Herself - Juror 5 episodes, 2004
Margie Fargo ...  Herself - Jury Expert 5 episodes, 2004
Shirley Ferrell Shirley Ferrell ...  Herself - Juror 5 episodes, 2004
Charlene Gill Charlene Gill ...  Herself - Juror 5 episodes, 2004
Keith Hall ...  Himself - Juror 5 episodes, 2004
Paul Harrison Paul Harrison ...  Himself - Juror 5 episodes, 2004
Orlando Hudson ...  Himself 5 episodes, 2004
Kristen Lyon Jones Kristen Lyon Jones ...  Herself - Juror 5 episodes, 2004
Ann Pennington Ann Pennington ...  Herself - Juror 5 episodes, 2004
Tonia Rogers Tonia Rogers ...  Herself - Juror 5 episodes, 2004
David Saacks ...  Himself / ... 5 episodes, 2004
Richard Sarratt Richard Sarratt ...  Himself - Juror 5 episodes, 2004
Julia Sims ...  Herself / ... 5 episodes, 2004
Kerry Sutton ...  Herself 5 episodes, 2004
Henry Lee ...  Himself 4 episodes, 2004
Candace Zamperini ...  Herself 4 episodes, 2004


Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, presents a gripping courtroom thriller, offering a rare and revealing inside look at a high-profile murder trial. In 2001, author Michael Peterson was arraigned for the murder of his wife Kathleen, whose body was discovered lying in a pool of blood on the stairway of their home. Granted unusual access to Peterson's lawyers, home and immediate family, de Lestrade's cameras capture the defense team as it considers its strategic options. "The staircase" is an engrossing look at contemporary American justice that features more twists than a legal bestseller. Written by Julie Pouillon

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Release Date:

June 2004 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Staircase See more »

Filming Locations:

Durham, North Carolina, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


(entire series)

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Mike Nifong, the DA involved in the Duke Lacrosse case, appears as an assistant DA in this documentary. See more »


Referenced in Dateline NBC: Down the Back Staircase (2017) See more »

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User Reviews

A Masterpiece - on True Crime genre and Documentaries
10 June 2018 | by winguitaSee all my reviews

If you think "I'm not into true crime documentaries, I'll pass" please do yourself a favour - don't think of it as a "crime doc".

This case has been one of the biggest and most controversial cases in recent times and if you have no idea of who Michael Peterson is you will be gripped by all the episodes.

Having previously watched the released episodes before Netflix premiered the series, adding 3 more, I had already formed an opinion and thought that 3 episodes would not make a huge difference. I was wrong. If the twists, turns, anger, love and incredible, mind-bending insider views weren't already enough, every single episode added had an incredible emotional charge to them.

This is not your usual "true crime" documentary. Yes, we have seen how the genre has expanded to showing the BTS footage, how Making A Murderer caught the attention of the whole world but trying not no spoil it... I would say MAM leaves a lot unsaid or "to be presumed" by the viewer. While The Staircase focuses on Michael Peterson and can easily be argued as "biased", I don't see how this particular case would have been fairly presented without that "bias". Meaning, all that is revealed (until the very last minutes of the last episode) will make you understand why Michael Peterson had the opportunity to be presented the way he is in this documentary.

If Making a Murderer did come up with several issues and questions were raised, they were just that - opening lines for possibilities that never got solved or resolved (most of them are still open for dispute).

But The Staircase is filled with facts and presentations of evidence that will for sure make everyone rethink about the whole justice system.

If you are familiar with the Owl Theory and don't understand why this wasn't discussed I would guess that it was a good effort to keep the bias to a minimum - not attempting to offer a solution, the viewer is left with what I believe to be the main core information. The flaws of a system are exposed - the flaws that everyone knows about but no one seems keen on solving... It is very disturbing (even for someone who is a fan of the true crime genre) to hear and clearly understand from the words and actions of the players involved in a murder case what *exactly* can go wrong - and why.

This was a brilliant, gripping series I watched in only 2 days because the revelations never end. I was not expecting to know much more about the case I was already familiar with but I was wrong.

I hope this documentary finds its way out of the true crime genre because even though it starts from a murder charge, everything else comes down to empathy, emotions, social and family relationships and a whole lot about how we, as a society, can be easily swayed from our very core beliefs.

You will laugh, you will cry, you will yell at the screen. No matter how you *personally* welcome what the director presents you, the raw honesty and the human emotions will affect you - from everyone involved in this tragedy.

I would say this is probably the best true crime doc I've seen, easily. And from someone who watches trials and live streams of these cases, I had never learned so much about the humanity (or lack thereof) and emotions going on in these procedures.

Don't read spoilers, don't read about the case if you have the chance to avoid it. This goes way beyond what is presented in any website you might read about it.

There's much (apparent) simplicity on the way the images are presented but they do serve a higher purpose - for the viewer to be able to live every situation as if it was happening to them.

Congratulations on the marvellous completion of 13 episodes and I truly hope every documentary lover will watch this, not only true-crime genre fans...

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