The Staircase has viewers talking right now. Starring Colin Firth, it follows the true-crime story into the death of Kathleen Peterson, who was found dead at the bottom of the stairs with her husband, Michael Peterson, becoming the prime suspect in her murder. So what happened, and where is he now?
Although he was convicted of murder back in 2001, he spent eight years in prison before he was granted a retrial over misreported test results in bloodstain evidence. At the time of his release, he said: “I have waited over eight years, 2,988 days as a matter of fact, and I counted for an opportunity to have a retrial.
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“I want to thank Judge Hudson for giving me that opportunity so that I can vindicate myself and prove my innocence in a fair trial this time. I want to thank all the people who’ve supported me from all over the world. It’s impossible for me to express my gratitude. What I want to do now though is to spend some time with, you know, my family and with my children. And certainly at a later time, I’d be happy to talk with everybody and share more. Thank you very, very much.”
Michael spent eight years in prison
He was placed under house arrest from 2011, with his new trial taking place in 2017. For this, Michael placed an Alford plea – a guilty plea in which the defendant can still assert innocence, while accepting that there is sufficient evidence to find them guilty beyond all reasonable doubt. He was sentenced to 86 months in prison, but had already service 98.5 months, and so was not incarcerated due to time served.
As of 2022, Michael is 78 years old and remains a free man. He returned to his home of Durham in North Carolina, moving into a ground-floor two-bedroom condo which his Defence attorney David Rudolf stressed in a statement, has “no stairs”. He has also taken up writing again, penning two books about the case. The proceeds for both memoirs, Behind the Staircase and Beyond the Staircase, have been donated to charity.
Colin plays Michael in the show
Although Michael hasn’t spoken about The Staircase, his former attorney, David Rudolf, said: “The implication that Jean made the documentary with the intention that it would exonerate Michael is just wrong and completely unfair.
“I mean, there was a lot of footage that he could have included in the documentary that would have been favourable to Michael that did not make it to the final cut. For example, we found the Army CID (Criminal Investigation Division) agent who went to the scene in Germany, and said there was no blood. He testified to that in court during the trial, under oath, and we put his contemporaneous report into evidence.”
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