Did he murder his wife by pushing her down the staircase?  Explosive new developments have raised doubts about the guilt of convicted murderer Michael Peterson, the subject of the award-winning documentary The Staircase.  Was he wrongfully convicted? In the new documentary, The Staircase 2: Last Chance, we revisit the case as forensic evidence is discredited and Peterson continues to proclaim his innocence.

Millions of people around the world watched The Staircase, the gripping courtroom thriller, which followed the high profile US murder trial of Michael Peterson. No one has forgotten the shocking verdict, which convicted Peterson of killing his wife Kathleen and sentenced him to life in prison. Prosecutors were never able to establish a clear motive and didn't find a murder weapon. Some viewers were satisfied by the verdict, most of them were outraged, but none were indifferent. But did the court get it wrong?

Ten years after Kathleen Peterson’s death, a new dramatic turn of events: scandal implicates both the forensics laboratory of the police department of North Carolina, and Duane Deaver, its chief. Deaver was a key prosecution witness in Peterson’s murder trial. His testimony sealed Peterson’s fate. Now, he’s accused of preparing misleading expert reports, doing shoddy and scientifically invalid work and presenting misleading testimony under oath. In December 2011, Deaver is summoned to court to justify his testimony in the Peterson trial.

Director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade follows the new hearing in his sequel The Staircase 2: Last Chance, bringing his cameras into the courtroom and capturing all the intrigue of the murder investigation. Now, excerpts from his original documentary are shown as evidence and the director films the projection of his own images.

Michael Peterson is as complex and charismatic as he was before. The man who confides in the filmmaker is marked by eight years of detention. Jean-Xavier de Lestrade interviews Peterson in his cell after each hearing, and shows us how, day after day, his health deteriorates with the intoxicating thought of finding freedom again.

Again we meet David Rudolph, the compassionate lawyer who defended Peterson. He says Peterson’s conviction “shook the foundations of my beliefs in the justice system, in human beings…”.  He was so depressed by the verdict that he never took a criminal case again. Now he’s ready to pour all his energy into this final battle. Michael’s children, now grown, come from all over the US to support their father. They have ceaselessly stood by their father’s side and believed in his innocence.

On December 16, 2011, Judge Orlando Hudson rules that Duane Deaver gave false and misleading testimony and grants Peterson a new trial. After eight years, Michael Peterson is released from prison.

The filmmaker returns to North Carolina a few months later to film Peterson and his new life and to see him relearn what it means to be free. Will there be a new trial?  Nothing is less certain. In early December 2012, the North Carolina Attorney General's Office argued that Peterson’s murder conviction should be reinstated. The Attorney General's Office has appealed Judge Hudson's decision, saying that the judge was wrong to throw out Peterson's conviction.

The documentary sequel The Staircase 2: Last Chance is directed by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, who won an Oscar for Murder on a Sunday Morning.

Credits (Click to expand)

Written & Directed by

Jean-Xavier de LESTRADE

 Producer

Allyson LUCHAK

Music

 Jocelyn POOK

Cinematographer

Isabelle RAZAVET

Camera Assistants

Marion BEFVE

Jacob HAUSER

Andra TEVY

Sound

Yves GRASSO

Editor

Sophie BRUNET

Assistant Editor

  Isidore BETHEL

Sound Editor

Cécile CHAGNAUD

Sound Mixer

Christophe COUGET-MORENO

Colorist

Isabelle LACLAU

Titles & Graphics

Guillaume COLAS

Preliminary Research

Agathe COLOMBIER

Equipment Management, Paris

Davis VINCENT

Post Production Facilities

TIGRE PRODUCTIONS – DC AUDIOVISUEL

LOCA IMAGES – HLC PRODUCTION - SYLICONE XII

DUM DUM FILMS - RUBINI & ASSOCIES

Additional Music

Extracts from the soundtrack of the following motion pictures:

"The Staircase, 1" - "Time Out" - "Brick Lane"

"The Repentant" - "How I Killed My Father" - "Vaerelse 304"

"Remnants of Everest: The 1996 Tragedy"

Music by Jocelyn Pook

@Chester Music Ltd,

courtesy of Première Music Groupe

"Storm Engine"

Music from the dance piece "Desh"

Music by Jocelyn Pook

@Chester Music Ltd,

courtesy of Première Music Groupe

«Happy Birthday to You»

written by Mildred J. HILL & Patty S. HILL

© Summy-Birchard Company – 1935

Courtesy of Warner Chappell Music France

Additional Footage

WTVD TV

ABC 11 Eyewitness News

WRAL TV - Raleigh, North Carolina

Photographs of Greg Taylor in prison

Shawn ROCCO

The News and Observer – Raleigh, North Carolina

 

Personal Archives

The Peterson Family

Greg Taylor

a WHAT’S UP Films Production

Executive Producers

Matthieu BELGHITI

Jean-Xavier de LESTRADE

Production Manager

Pierre CARRIQUE

Production Assistant

Maya LUSSIER-SEGUIN

Interns

Jean-Sébastien FERNANDEZ

Eve TAGNY

With the Participation of

CANAL+

Documentary Film Department

Christine CAUQUELIN

Françoise FEUILLYE

Philippe de BOURBON

Negotiations

Florence KNAPIK

Communication

AUDE BOUSSARIE

With the Participation of PLANETE+ JUSTICE

LA PROCIREP - Société des Producteurs

L’ANGOA

With the Participation of

CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA CINEMATOGRAPHIE

ET DE L’IMAGE ANIMEE

Co-produced with

VPRO – Commissioning Editor – Barbara Truyen

In association with

BBC

Betv

CBC News Network

DBS SATELLITE SERVICES (1998) LTD

RTS - Radio Télévision Suisse – Documentary Film Unit

Irène Challand / Gaspard Lamunière

SBS - TV Australia

SVT – Sveriges Television AB

SUNDANCE CHANNEL L.L.C

VRT – Vlaamse Radio- en Televisieomroeporganisatie

Also on CBC