Like a lot of folks, I am fascinated with the question, “Did he, or didn’t he?” and a ‘new to me’ documentary called, “the Staircase” asks that question brilliantly. I have never claimed to have my finger on the pulse of what’s new in media, so it’s no surprise that I happened upon Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s 2004 documentary on the Sundance Channel only a few days ago. Thanks to a nasty flu bug that has rendered me incapable of doing much more than couch surfing, I watched the first six episodes of the eight part series in one sitting. The series follows the investigation and trial of writer Michael Peterson, who was accused of murdering his wife Kathleen after she was found dead at the bottom of a narrow staircase in the couple’s home. Although the trial is over and a verdict rendered, the case remains unresolved in my world and I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Netflix envelope to find out how it ends. The film bounces back and forth between the prosecution and the defense, spending a great deal of time with Michael himself, and as new information is revealed and secrets are exposed, the viewer goes on a roller coaster ride—at first believing in his innocence and then thinking he’s guilty and so on. I won’t ruin it by revealing any of the sordid details, but suffice it to say, this real life murder trial has more twists and turns than the sudsiest soap opera and I am on the figurative edge of my literal seat.
The most immediate effect of my morbid obsession with this particular show is that I have officially banned my daughter from dating anyone with the last name Peterson. Irrational as that may be, I don’t want to take any chances. After all, Scott Peterson was convicted of killing his wife Laci and ex-cop Drew Peterson is currently under investigation for the disappearance of his fourth wife and the suspicious death of his third. This is once instance where if “it’s all in a name,” Peterson is one to avoid. If your name does happen to be Peterson, and changing it is not an option, you might consider a serious re-branding campaign to ensure that your name is associated with more wholesome endeavors.
Well, I’m off to wait for the mailman (and no, I am not sexist, my mail carrier happens to be a man) and the little red envelope that will answer all my questions. Until then, Mrs. Winston is sleeping with one eye open. Remember, “Innocent until proven guilty” is still true in the courtroom, if not in the media.