Michael Peterson and The Staircase, redux
March 5, 2013 5:54 AM   Subscribe

Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s documentary gets new installments. Previously. Eight years later, Michael Peterson went back to court and Lestrade filmed it again.
posted by BibiRose (11 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I am so looking forward to this. The first Staircase was the best thing I had ever seen (other than the Sopranos).

I remember reading quite a bit about the movie on the internet after watching it. It was my impression that de Lestrade had distorted and omitted some key pieces of evidence from the documentary.

Can anyone corroborate?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:16 AM on March 5, 2013

That film was a total mindblow at the time I saw it, I have no view about its treatment of truth and evidence but what a story.
posted by C.A.S. at 10:14 AM on March 5, 2013

I thought this was a fascinating series, thanks for posting this. Spoiler tags would be appropriate, though - I now unfortunately know the outcome of the hearings. The episode that reveals the outcome hasn't yet aired.
posted by slmorri at 10:31 AM on March 5, 2013

I haven't seen the new episodes. What I do remember from googling around after watching the original film was that Peterson had serious financial problems and a big life insurance policy on his late wife. This wasn't even mentioned in the film, which chose to blame American prudery for the criminal case. Anyway, I look forward to seeing the new episodes. Thanks for posting!
posted by orrnyereg at 11:50 AM on March 5, 2013

Are we concerned about spoilers in this discussion? It aired a month ago on the BBC and was pretty interesting; I was hoping there might be other people in here who'd seen it.
posted by hot soup girl at 12:03 PM on March 5, 2013

I do apologize for any spoilers. I am not sure it's possible to mention the new episodes without at least hinting that they went back to court. I found out this second series was airing because I wondered what happened to Peterson and Googled for news. In the process, I learned the outcome of the hearing which is currently being shown.

There have been accusations of bias in the first series. That earlier discussion on the blue suggests some of the problems, and someone cites a couple of true-crime books which apparently present different points of view. In my opinion, this is almost by definition a situation where the filmmaker has shaped events by being involved. It blows my mind that Peterson not only permitted his trial to be taped, but allowed the filmmakers to follow him and his family around the way they did.

As far as actual distortion goes, as I recall one of the main things the filmmaker is accused of leaving out is Peterson's financial problems and that he had a life insurance policy on his wife. People also cite, as evidence of his guilt, that the birth mother of his two daughters died by falling down a staircase, very similar to his wife. The filmmaker did not try to hide this circumstance, but rather presented it as being very irregular that the jury was allowed to hear about it. Other points given a lot of treatment were blood spatters (very confusing) and, yes, Peterson's personal life. One of the prosecutors made a very big deal about him being bisexual and also being "a fictional writer." I'd been the filmmaker I certainly would have included it. I'd say it was bizarre that she thought that would work, but it may in fact have worked.
posted by BibiRose at 12:45 PM on March 5, 2013

For what it's worth, which isn't much in that it's just an opinion, it always seemed to me from the original Staircase that Peterson was guilty as hell. It's a bit disturbing to hear that Lestrade left out key details like the insurance policy, and to hear him being happy about Peterson's release.
posted by anothermug at 4:18 PM on March 5, 2013

I saw the new episode, if you think the original was biased this one is far worse.
One key piece of information De Lestrade left out of the new episode was that the editor of The Staircase 1 fell in love with Peterson, and now she's officially with him.
And she's the one editing The Staircase 2, so naturally bias occurs...
posted by SageLeVoid at 5:45 PM on March 5, 2013

The thing that fascinates me most about Peterson is his uniformly aw-shucks-gee-whiz folksy upbeat response to absolutely everything—whether reacting to allegations that he was sleeping with men or describing the last time he saw his wife alive. While watching the first documentary, I found his manner frequently disingenuous—it seemed like the reassuring tone of a practiced liar—yet I had to keep reminding myself not to be too persuaded by that feeling.
posted by hot soup girl at 6:19 PM on March 5, 2013

I too found Peterson fascinating. But also pretty much unreadable. He seemed like a cold fish and his reactions just seemed very off. (If I'd just seen him in court, I might have thought he had taken a lot of valium or something. He looked dopey to me.) But then I would think, he probably just is that way; in itself, if doesn't mean he is innocent or guilty.

His children really seem to love him though. I wonder what was going on in that house. So odd to see hours and hours of tape, and still so many mysteries.
posted by BibiRose at 4:17 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

A few more facts not included in the original series was the bloody footprint found on the victim's back (it was finally referenced in the follow up), as well as the fact that the victim's daughter thought Peterson was guilty and sued him in civil court for killing her mother.

The weirdest fact I uncovered after watching the series, other than the story about the editor falling in love with him (um, why?), was that one of the daughters, Margaret Blakemore (nee Ratliff), is listed on LinkedIn as the owner/executive producer of Splat Against the Wall Productions. So, both your mother and adoptive mother die, ostensibly in a collision against a wall after a fall down a staircase, and you call your production company that? I have a very dark sense of humor, but...
posted by carrienation at 9:42 AM on March 6, 2013

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