Happiness is a Warm TV

HBO’s ‘The Staircase’ Episode 4: The verdict and another version of Kathleen’s death

Juliette Binoche as Sophie Brunet in the HBO Max series “The Staircase.” HBO/Warner Bros

Sophie Brunet officially enters the story

2017: Episode 4 opens by officially revealing the identify of the woman we’ve glimpsed a few times previously in 2017 segments of the series: Sophie Brunet, the editor of the French “Staircase” documentary.

Brunet, played by Juliette Binoche, is seen arriving at the Durham County Courthouse with Michael on Feb. 24, 2017 (Michael’s new day in court) and sitting down for an interview with documentary director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade (Vincent Vermignon).

Brunet goes on the record for the first time about her relationship with Michael, saying that (as of February 2017) the two had been “together” for 12 years — starting a few years after his conviction in 2003. She says she doesn’t want to say more at that moment about their relationship.

But Brunet’s other comments provide an important thread throughout the episode.

De Lestrade asks her if “today” is proof that the justice system works and Brunet answers: “It’s hard to say. What is justice?”

2003: We flip back to France in 2003, as Brunet receives packages of digital videotapes from the documentary crew back in Durham.

Her 2017 comments on justice play over scenes of her editing trial footage:

“A trial is simply two sides competing to tell a better story. And 12 jurors declare one of the stories the winner, and that story becomes justice. Justice is a construct, little more than a game, a game that shapes the outcome of a man’s life. As for what is happening today, this feels bigger than justice. This is fate.”

Patrick Schwarzenegger as Todd Peterson, Odessa Young as Martha Ratliff, Sophie Turner as Margaret Ratliff and Dane DeHaan as Clayton Peterson in the HBO Max series “The Staircase.” HBO/Warner Bros

The family attends the trial

2003: We move back into the 2003 trial now, and we see SBI agent Duane Deaver (Myke Holmes) testify in detail about the blood spatter at the scene of Kathleen’s death, pointing to crime scene photos to explain patterns and demonstrating how the beating must have taken place (in his opinion).

Deaver boasts about his credentials, as Michael leans over to attorney David Rudolf (Michael Stuhlbarg) and whispers, “The guy looks like a penis,” and Rudolf laughs.

During the trial, Todd Peterson (Patrick Schwarzenegger) gets a call from his brother Clayton Peterson (Dane DeHaan), who is freaking out back in Maryland because the trial “looks bad on TV, dude.” Todd tells him to stop watching Court TV, but Clayton wants to go to Durham. He’s told to stay put.

Back at the house, Rudolf tells the family that a united front is important, so everyone has to be at the trial.

Martha Ratliff (Odessa Young) doesn’t want to go. Rudolf says he’s not going to force her, and Martha interrupts him: “Of course you are, that’s what this meeting is about.”

Todd mentions that Clayton has been wanting to come home and immediately Michael says: “No no no! Not for this, keep pushing him off.” Michael suggests Martha take one of Kathleen’s Valiums to get through the stress of the trial.

Martha says NO, she is NOT going.

So of course, the very next scene shows Martha sitting in the front row at the trial as medical examiner Deborah Radisch (Susan Pourfar) goes over autopsy photos with prosecutor Freda Black (Parker Posey).

Frank Feys as Denis Poncet (left) and Vincent Vermignon as Jean-Xavier de Lestrade in the HBO Max series “The Staircase.” HBO/Warner Bros

A hard day in court

As the medical examiner begins to testify, Martha says she thinks she’s going to have a panic attack, and Michael looks back to reassure her, then he looks down — he doesn’t look at the autopsy photos. This is noted by “Staircase” producer Denis Poncet (Frank Feys), the Peterson skeptic in this telling of “The Staircase,” and director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade responds that it’s because he’s crying.

The photos of Kathleen are graphic and upsetting, and Martha puts her head down and hyperventilates.

Black establishes that Radisch ruled Kathleen’s death a homicide by blunt force trauma. Rudolf cross-examines Radisch about the fractured cartilage in Kathleen’s thyroid, asking if that is indicative of strangulation. Radisch insists that the fractured cartilage means it is “highly highly likely an attempt at strangulation was made.”

Rudolf then switches to her finding of blunt force trauma to the head, presenting her with records of North Carolina autopsies of blunt force traumas to the head from 1991 to 2003 — 257 deaths — and in every case, Rudolf says the reports show that every single time the beating resulted in either a skull fracture or massive injury to the brain.

Rudolf has Radisch confirm that Kathleen had neither type of injury, then suggests that Radisch was “coached by the DA” to put “blunt force trauma” on Kathleen’s autopsy report. Hardin objects and Rudolf withdraws. The Peterson contingency looks pleased.

Michael Stuhlbarg as David Rudolf and Colin Firth as Michael Peterson in the HBO Max series “The Staircase.” HBO/Warner Bros

Michael’s childhood memory

2003: Back at the house after a day in court, Michael sits in his study with de Lestrade, preparing his pipe and telling him about the first time he heard classical music.

As he tells the story, we see flashbacks of a little boy and a man and woman in a car, at night. The little boy in the backseat — presumably, Michael — has a black eye, but that detail is not mentioned in Michael’s story.

The story: Michael was a child, in the car with his parents, coming back from a Little League game. He was upset about something, but can’t remember what, he said, when the Armed Forces Radio station began to play Mahler’s 5th Symphony, 1st Movement. His dad went to turn it off and Michael asked him to stop. “It was the most fabulous thing I ever heard,” he tells de Lestrade. His father turned it off anyway and went into the house. “He never liked to be too far from his bourbon,” Michael says, but his “dear mother” stayed in the car with him, turned the radio back on and they listened together. Michael: “The music washed over me, it overwhelmed me and I was hooked. So much emotion, so much drama, so much truth, all without saying a single word.”

Michael tells de Lestrade that he doesn’t know how he’ll get all his “ramblings” into one film, and de Lestrade replies that they may make the movie into a TV series instead.

Liz Ratliff and objectivity

2003: Now we’re in Texas, where Elizabeth Ratfliff’s body is being exhumed and returned to Durham for autopsy.

The voiceover here, as we see medical examiner Radisch about to begin the autopsy, is de Lestrade asking Brunet “Do you believe in objectivity?”

Brunet: “No. The only way to get close to objectivity is by recognizing how subjective we are ... I think the only way to get close to objectivity is to realize it doesn’t exist.”

The autopsy report is faxed to the Peterson house and Rudolf looks it over with investigator Ron Guerette (Robert Crayton) who says, “It doesn’t looks good Mike.” Michael looks anguished.

Martha sits on the porch, alone, crying.

Inside the house, Rudolf and the Petersons compare the autopsies of Kathleen and Liz Ratliff, pointing out the differences and similarities. Todd is angry: “In what (expletive) universe can they assign the same person who did Kathleen’s autopsy to do Liz’s?” he asks.

Todd asks Rudolf why he didn’t stop this (the exhumation) and Mike adds, to Rudolf: “You went too hard at her,” referring to Radisch.

(L-R): Justice Leaks as Tom Maher, Colin Firth as Michael Peterson, Patrick Schwarzenegger as Todd Peterson, Tim Guinee as Bill Peterson and Robert Crayton as Ron Guerette in the HBO Max series “The Staircase.” HBO/Warner Bros

The vibe in the room is bleak: Bill (Tim Guinee) and Patty (Trini Alvarado) both look worried, Todd is agitated and Michael wants the bottom line of what it means for the case. Guerette says it means the prosecution will call more witnesses about the death in Germany and Michael wonders what kind of witnesses they could possibly call.

“There wasn’t even any blood,” he says.

“Well there was some blood, Michael” Patty offers. Michael looks panicked, and Poncet, the skeptical producer, smiles.

Rudolf lays out the plan: “We keep appealing to common sense. This is a strange coincidence, nothing more. There is no such thing as a Staircase Killer who emerges every 20 years to hurl his victims down the steps.”

Now we see Margaret Ratliff (Sophie Turner) obsessively going through old home movies and making notes of instances when the “missing blow poke” was not seen — hoping to show it had been missing for a long time before Kathleen’s death.

De Lestrade asks her if this activity is related to the autopsy findings. We notice that Margaret calls Kathleen “mom” and then quickly changes it to “Kathleen.” Then she says: “It’s my fault, I could have said no,” referring to the exhumation. The video plays and Margaret smiles as she sees Kathleen on the tape, but she looks so sad. It’s a brief but heartbreaking scene.

Dane DeHaan as Clayton Peterson and Toni Collette as Kathleen Peterson in the HBO Max series “The Staircase.” HBO/Warner Bros

Clayton and Kathleen fight

November 2001: Kathleen stands in the hallway of her home with a cup of coffee, staring up at the bat-infested attic. Michael asks her if she picked up his suit for the town hall debate and they briefly discuss the bats and the pipes. Michael asks about her injured neck and she says it’s better — “except when it hurts.”

Then we see Kathleen in her car, in the rain, biting off half of a pain pill as she waits to pick up Clayton at school. He’s late. He asks her if she is mad at him and she said yes, she’s irritated because he was late. He says he was studying and he’s sorry. “You’re always sorry and nothing ever seems to change!” Kathleen snaps.

Todd asks her where the anger is coming from and she explains that not everyone gets a second chance in life, but he did and he seems “determined to screw it right up,” she says. He responds: “I did my time,” and Kathleen yells: “I don’t give an (expletive) about spring break, Clayton, Jesus! I’m still pissed about what happened in July!”

July? Hmmmm.

Clayton is shocked and angry that she’s “still mad” about that because his girlfriend Becky is over it. He tells Kathleen that she acts so morally superior to everyone, but has never copped to the fact that she was sleeping with Michael while he was still married to his mom, Patricia.

Kathleen is shocked. She asks Clayton who told him that and he said: “We all know, we just don’t rub your face in it, (expletive) hypocrite.” Kathleen’s chin trembles, but she doesn’t cry. “You mind your temper, Clayton,” she says.

Testimony about Germany

2002: In Maryland, Clayton watches a Court TV report about Elizabeth Ratliff, and we see testimony of the nanny who found Ratliff the morning after she died in Germany. The nanny says there was blood at the scene, and that Michael arrived and said Ratliff had a brain aneurysm and must have fall down the stairs. “He proclaimed it and then it was true,” she says.

On cross-examination, defense attorney Tom Maher (Justice Leak) asks the nanny why she didn’t mention anything about blood at the time, and asks how she can be sure about the blood, since there are no photos. She answers that when she saw reports of Kathleen’s death she started having “flashbacks” of Ratliff’s death. Maher seizes on the word “flashback” to make the witness seem crazy.

The nanny cries out that she should have done a better job protecting babies Margaret and Martha.

After court, the family heads to the parking garage and Martha — upset by the nanny’s testimony — runs to the car, gets in and locks the door. She won’t let anyone in. She’s asking about what the nanny was saying and Michael growls, “open the (expletive) door now!” and she does, as TV news cameras chase after them.

Michael Peterson’s Durham home as depicted in the HBO Max series “The Staircase.” HBO/Warner Bros

When subjectivity is threatened

Brunet’s 2017 voiceover returns, as we see the family (in 2003) cleaning the Peterson home ahead of a visit by the jury the next day.

Brunet talks about subjectivity and how we react when that is threatened: “Some go toward the threat and question and dig (we see Martha scrubbing the floor on her hands and knees), and some rationalize and try to force the stories to fit together (we see Todd rearranging family photos on a table after he has dusted). Some don’t engage and bury the threat deep inside (Margaret vacuums), and some seem not to be threatened at all (Michael arranges flowers in a vase).”

The jury visits 1810 Cedar St.

2003: Rudolf talks to the Petersons about opening the defense portion of the trial, which will begin with a jury walk-through. Guerette comes in with Clayton — surprise! The girls and Patty jump up to hug him. Michael and Todd stay seated and look irritated.

Clayton says he’s there for a couple of weeks — maybe he can get the Trans Am up and running, while home. He looks at Michael and says he wants to help, and he hopes it’s OK that he’s there. Michael hugs him and tells him he’s glad he’s there.

The jury — along with Durham District Attorney Jim Hardin (Cullen Moss) and Freda Black — arrives to look at the house and the staircase.

2017: We’re back with Brunet and de Lestrade. De Lestrade asks her: “What would you say is a storyteller’s job? Should he present the truth as he sees it, or is persuasion part of his job?”

Brunet: “Maybe she can do both. But you know, in my experience people don’t like to be persuaded. So the storyteller must accept that she can control what the story says but not how it is read.”

2003: While Brunet talks, we see jurors examine the Peterson house. We see Rudolf and ABC11 reporter Sonya Pfeiffer (Teri Wyble) exchange flirty glances.

Brunet: “You can only show what looks to you like the truth, knowing that it may look to someone else like a lie.”

Dane DeHaan as Clayton Peterson and Patrick Schwarzenegger as Todd Peterson in the HBO Max series “The Staircase.” HBO/Warner Bros

Henry Lee testifies

2003: Back at the trial, renowned forensic expert Henry Lee (Wilky Lau) testifies about blood castoff, demonstrating by flinging red liquid onto a piece of paper.

He says the blood in the staircase is from Kathleen coughing, and that the scene is more consistent with a fall. Clayton takes notes and Todd whispers, “Hey Rain Man, cut it out.” Then Lee says: “There was simply way too much blood for a beating.” In the gallery, Kathleen’s sister, Candace Zamperini (Rosemarie Dewitt), laughs.

Hardin cross-examines Lee, presenting him with a copy of Lee’s book, given to Deaver by Lee, with a complimentary inscription. Lee makes a joke to downplay the sincerity of the inscription.

Hardin asks if Lee can definitely rule out a beating and Lee says: “No, no one can.”

November 2001: At the Durham City Council candidate’s debate, in what appears to be a high school gym, Michael is challenged about his Purple Heart scandal by someone in the very small audience. While the man in the audience yells at him, Michael sees/imagines two young boys in baseball uniforms run through the back of the room and past a young man in army fatigues wearing dog tags.

2003: Michael stares out of the window of his home as Rudolf plans the closing. Michael announces that he wants to testify. Bill and Rudolf both tell him it’s a bad idea. A terrible idea. But Mike wants to be heard, wants to tell his side of the story. Clayton agrees with Michael, but Rudolf tells him no, the case is strong, he doesn’t need to testify.

Dane DeHaan as Clayton Peterson in the HBO Max series “The Staircase.” HBO/Warner Bros

The blow poke discovery

2003: Clayton is in the garage working on the old Trans Am. As he sits in the driver’s seat, he looks in the rear view mirror and seems to see something. Then we see Clayton running through the house, and he’s muttering to himself, “I found something.” Once he gets to the top of the stairs he screams: “I found it! I found the (expletive) blow poke!”

Todd immediately accuses him of planting the blow poke there and Clayton swears he didn’t. He mutters: “It’s not like there’s blood on it.” The boys start to argue and Michael yells at them to shut up. Michael says he can’t believe it, after all the times the Durham Police Department searched the house.

Rudolf and Michael are now out by the pool and Michael is worried about how the discovery of the blow poke will look. Rudolf explains that the blow poke is intact and there’s no blood, so “this could be good, provided you’re telling the truth.” Michael responds: “Of course I am, Jesus.”

Michael Stuhlbarg as David Rudolf in the HBO Max series “The Staircase.” HBO/Warner Bros

Prepping Clayton to testify

Back inside the house, Rudolf and Maher question Clayton, to prep him in case Hardin calls him to testify about the blow poke.

Maher tells him to be honest. Clayton admits to two DUIs. Then, he talks about April 1994 at college at Duke, when he “went on spring break.” Maher asks him how much prison time he served for planting the pipe bombs at Duke — the first time in the series this is referenced directly.

Clayton says the bombs were never designed to go off, they were a diversion so he could get to the laminating machine to make fake IDs. But yes, he spent four years in federal prison for the bombs, he said. Then adds that it wouldn’t have been that long except they found more bombs in his room (at home).

With every admission, those in the room — Maher, Rudolf, Todd, Patty and both Ratliff girls — react.

Patty, tuning in to how badly Clayton is coming off, notes that he is finishing his second masters now, this one in computer engineering.

“That’s great, turning over a new leaf,” Maher says. “But while we’re still on the old one ...”

Maher asks Clayton about July 4, 2001. In this incident, Clayton was drunk and he and Becky had a fight and she called the cops because Clayton hit her. Clayton corrects the account, saying he “shoved” Becky, and that she has forgiven him. In fact, they are engaged now, he says.

Maher says if the prosecution gets a whiff of domestic violence, it’s over. Victims often become abusers, he says, so they’ll ask Clayton if his father ever hit him or Kathleen. Of course not, Clayton says. Maher says they’ll ask Clayton if he knew his father was bisexual. Clayton gives a weird answer about his father’s sexuality, saying he was always jealous of his father’s sex life with Kathleen.

Todd and the girls are grossed out by this answer.

Then Clayton says he once walked in on Michael masturbating to “something kinda gay” and Martha mutters “Oh my god, the Petersons are (expletive) crazy.”

“What do you mean ‘the Petersons’”? Clayton wants to know.

Todd asks Margaret, who they sometimes call “Margie,” to keep Martha in check, but she says she’s sick of defending them. Todd yells at Margaret that she shouldn’t say things like that in front of his mother (Patty), “who took you in off the streets,” and Margaret yells back that all the boys do is hit their mother up for money.

“You make everything worse! You rack up debt, you embarrass us!” Margaret screams.

“Hey! I run a successful website!” Todd yells back.

“You sound like a psychopath!” Martha yells at him.

Tom Maher has a WTF look on his face, and Patty, upset, runs from the room. She goes out to the pool and asks Michael to come inside and help with the children.

We shift back to the room and it’s full chaos now. Clayton, Todd, Margaret and Martha are all screaming at each other, and Clayton and Martha get physical before Todd steps in to separate them.

Michael enters and screams “That’s enough!” and they stop.

Michael Stuhlbarg as David Rudolf and Colin Firth as Michael Peterson in the HBO Max series “The Staircase.” HBO/Warner Bros

Will Michael testify?

Michael says Clayton is not going to testify (yeah, that was pretty clear) and that if anyone testifies it’ll be him. And he adds that he is going to testify — “for the good of this case, for the good of this family and before we all (expletive) kill each other.”

Rudolf follows Michael from the room and wants to “talk it through” — about what it’ll be like for him on the stand.

He tells Michael that they’ll ask him about the Purple Heart to establish a pattern of lying. Michael admits he lied about that but says he has other medals. He pulls out a photo of a Marine he was close to in Vietnam, someone who died in his arms. “So did Kathleen,” Rudolf says.

Then Rudolf asks if he learned CPR in the military. Michael says yes. But he didn’t do CPR on Kathleen, Rudolf points out. “No. I was in shock,” Michael says.

“A Vietnam vet with a bunch of different color stars, obviously saw combat — you went into shock?” Rudolf counters.

“It wasn’t like combat,” Michael says. “It was just her in pain, leaving me and me begging her not to go. She wouldn’t listen. It was the worst moment of my life.”

Rudolf tells him he believes him, but asks how will the jury know it’s “not just another Purple Heart, not another lie.”

Next we’re back in court and we see Rudolf present the blow poke (Hardin calls them “sneaky” to Black) and conclude his case, without Peterson testifying.

Cullen Moss as Durham DA Jim Hardin in the HBO Max series “The Staircase.” HBO/Warner Bros

Closing arguments

2003: Freda practices her closing with Hardin, going over the bit about how Kathleen didn’t know Michael was bisexual. She uses the word “obscene” and Hardin asks if that’s the best they’ve got for this guy “who beat his wife like a dog. I want to nail his ass to the wall,” Hardin says.

Black pours some vodka into her coffee cup and gets back to writing.

Then we’re in court, at the memorable scene of Black describing the pornography on Michael’s computer as “pure-T filth” and arguing “this isn’t people involved in relationships, this is any which-a-way and it is not how so-called soul mates conduct themselves.”

Rudolf gets his turn and tells the jury that their job is not to decide if Michael is innocent, but if the prosecution has sufficiently proven guilt — and they have not, he says. The case is “riddled with holes and unanswered questions,” Rudolf says. “Doubt after reasonable doubt.”

Next up is Hardin, who tells the jury that Kathleen Peterson is talking to them through the blood on the walls, screaming out for justice. “Kathleen is telling us she died of murder,” he says.

Back at home, while the jury deliberates, Michael wakes up and goes downstairs, but no one is there. The TV plays on it, news of his trial. He calls out to his family but he’s alone. He walks by the back staircase and looks at it, covered with a piece of plywood.

Parker Posey as Freda Black and Cullen Moss as Durham DA Jim Hardin in the HBO Max series “The Staircase.” HBO/Warner Bros

The verdict and Kathleen’s death, Part 2

2003: In the courtroom, the clerk starts to read the verdict and time flashes back to Dec. 9, 2001.

[Warning: the following description of Kathleen’s death is graphic and upsetting. If you’re sensitive to that, just skip it and know it presents a scenario in which Michael kills Kathleen on the stairs.]

Toni Collette as Kathleen Peterson in the HBO Max series “The Staircase.” HBO/Warner Bros

2001: Michael and Kathleen are by the pool. She heads inside to check her email. It’s just like the scene in Episode 2, in which Kathleen is shown dying on the stairs after an accidental fall. This time, instead of heading up the stairs and tripping, she goes into Michael’s study and uses his computer to check her email.

She spots a folder on the computer’s desktop with images of male escorts. She goes into his email and sees the messages there. The camera is tight on her face, the realization of what she’s seeing washing over her.

Michael comes inside and Kathleen is waiting for him at the kitchen island. She confronts him about what she found.

“I always knew, I think, somewhere underneath,” she says. “Why didn’t you tell me? You could have told me. It would have be our secret. I think I could have lived with that.”

Michael asks her what she’s talking about and she says, “I’m talking about the porn and the escorts and the men, the men, the men!”

Michael denies everything: “Whatever you think you saw — you’re drunk. I’m a writer. It’s called research.”

Toni Collette as Kathleen Peterson and Colin Firth as Michael Peterson in the HBO Max limited series “The Staircase.” HBO/Warner Bros

Kathleen: “Stop lying, Michael. Oh god, the lying. The arrogance. The selfishness. You have managed me and humiliated me and I swore to myself I would never be this woman again — this (expletive) victim!”

Michael continues to deny everything.

“You don’t get to Michael Peterson your way out of this,” she tells him, crying. “I am your wife — and I’m leaving you,” she says.

“No you’re not,” Michael tells her. “You’re tired and you’re drunk.”

“I am not drunk! Stop saying that I’m drunk! I’m leaving. I’m done playing house with you,” she says.

Michael tells her to lower her voice, but she’s really angry now, calling him “a fraud, a thief, a conman — you are nothing!”

Michael walks out of the kitchen and heads toward the stairs with Kathleen behind him, still yelling at him.

He tells her to shut up and he turns and pushes her away. She falls back and hits her head on the wall, collapses to the floor. Then Michael is on top of her, hands around her neck, slamming her head into the floor. They struggle and he slams her head again.

Then he seems to realize what he’s done and stops, says “Oh my god, oh god, Kathleen!” He’s panicked.

He runs past her up the stairs and gets towels that he puts under her head to stop the bleeding. “It’s OK,” he says over and over, crying and panicking. Kathleen is struggling alone on the stairs as he picks up the phone, then throws it down. Instead, he grabs a roll of paper towels and runs to her again.

Kathleen begins to convulse, and he stands over her and watches her die.

Toni Collette as Kathleen Peterson and Colin Firth as Michael Peterson in the HBO Max limited series “The Staircase.” HBO / Warner Bros

Reaction to the guilty verdict

2003: Back in the courtroom, Martha and Margaret sob, absolutely distraught by the verdict.

Judge Hudson asks Michael if he wants to say anything to the court, and Michael turns back to look at the girls and says: “It’s OK, it’s OK, it’s OK, it’s OK.”

Then he’s handcuffed and taken from the courtroom.

We see Kathleen’s daughter, Caitlin Atwater (Olivia DeJonge) run to a bathroom and vomit.

TV cameras follow the Ratfliff girls out of the courthouse while Caitlin goes the other way. She and Martha look back at each other.

Michael waits in a hallway alone, except he’s being filmed by de Lestrade. “Not now Jean, please,” Michael says, and de Lestrade lowers the camera.

He steps forward and puts a hand on Michael’s shoulder and asks if he’s alright. “No, I’m not,” Michael says. “I’m scared.” De Lestrade hugs him.

Making ‘The Staircase’ documentary

2017: De Lestrade is back with Brunet.

“OK Sophie let’s try this again,” he says. “What is your relationship with Michael Peterson?”

2003: We flash back to France in 2003, as Brunet watches video of Peterson being found guilty, and the voiceovers we hear now are her letters to Michael in prison.

She tells Michael that his family has been “failed by a broken justice system.” She tells him she knows he has been failed because “I’ve seen it moment by moment, frame by frame. Rest assured while you wait for freedom, your story will be told. I will tell it for you.”

2004: Then we see de Lestrade and Poncet meeting with Brunet to see how she has cut together their footage. She presses a button and “The Staircase” (documentary) begins.

Recaps of HBO Max ‘Staircase’ episodes

HBO’s “The Staircase” Episode 1: The death of Kathleen Peterson and an arrest

HBO’s “The Staircase” Episode 2: Peterson prepares his defense, the French arrive

HBO’s “The Staircase” Episode 3: Building a case, Peterson’s trial begins

More coverage of HBO’s Peterson saga ‘The Staircase’

You can find more coverage of the HBO Max series “The Staircase” and the trial of Michael Peterson at newsobserver.com/topics/staircase. Here are a few of the stories:

HBO Max’s “Staircase” series: What to expect (vs. the Netflix option) and how to watch

The “Staircase” Peterson saga in pop culture: movies, TV, books and podcasts

“The Staircase” updates: Whatever happened to key people (and Durham house)

A “Staircase” timeline: From Kathleen Peterson’s death to her husband’s trial and plea

HBO’s ‘The Staircase’: Who was Kathleen Peterson and where did she work?

Who is Larry Pollard from HBO’s ‘Staircase’? The Owl Theory, ‘smoking feather’ and more

This story was originally published May 12, 2022 8:00 AM.

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