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Did Michael Peterson kill his wife?


Squadron Leader
Staff member
Dec 16, 2017
Land of Smiles
Basic Beliefs
In December 2001, novelist Michael Peterson of Durham NC called 911 in hysteria, saying his wife Kathleen was lying at the bottom of a staircase, gravely injured though still breathing. Police soon arrived and took Peterson into custody as a murder suspect.

Do any of you remember the case from 20 years ago? Have you watched the recently-released series?

The case attained notoriety; a French crew obtained permission to film the defendant, his family and lawyers, and the courtroom. Their 10-episode documentary The Staircase aired in 2004 and was recently expanded to 13 episodes; it is now playing on Netflix. Meanwhile an 8-episode dramatization of the same story (and with the same name) was created and is now playing on HBO Max.

I've not watched the HBO dramatization, but I just finished the Netflix series. Watching the REAL family and the REAL lawyers in their REAL conferences adds interest and authenticity that no dramatization could have.

There are too many interesting aspects to the case to list; I'll just mention one. The prosecution's forensic man claimed he could deduce that Peterson paused after the first few blows, and then resumed bludgeoning his wife to kill her. That delay showed premeditation, which was a necessary element since First-degree murder was charged but not Second-degree. (Does that make sense? Is it more usual to charge BOTH 1st- and 2nd-degrees? This alleged pause and thus premeditation seems not to have been noticed by the defense team until the prosecution's closing.)

Defense presented two experts who thought the injuries and blood were inconsistent with prosecution's theory. But would a simple fall cause so much damage?

Had I been on the jury I'd likely have voted "Not Guilty due to Reasonable Doubt" but that doesn't prove Peterson to be innocent. No weapon was found; no motive was alleged; there was no evidence that Peterson had a violent temper. Yet, despite the reasonable doubts, I think there's a good chance it was a murder.

What do others think? Did Michael Peterson kill his wife?


Apr 14, 2006
Late for dinner
Basic Beliefs
Gnostic atheist
Yes all the Petersons are guilty - Scott, Drew and Michael.

Ladies, don't marry a Peterson.
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