Nearly 15 years after the premiere of The Staircase, an eight-episode documentary series that looked at the murder case of crime novelist Michael Peterson, the series is returning with new episodes. The Netflix trailer for The Staircase focuses on the case surrounding the 2001 death of Peterson's wife, Kathleen, who was found bloody and bruised at the bottom of a staircase in the Durham, North Carolina mansion the couple shared. While some things have changed, The Staircase will still leave viewers asking, did he do it? Of course, you'll have to watch and decide for yourself, but it's likely, this will become your new true crime obsession of the summer.
On June 8, The Staircase, which originally aired on the Sundance network, will start streaming on Netflix with two new episodes. The original docu-series focused on Peterson, who claimed his wife had fallen down the stairs. But medical examiners believed the injuries Kathleen sustained, were consistent with a death by bludgeoning. It led to a case in which Peterson was found guilty of murder in 2003 and sentenced to life in prison, according to Newsweek.
After nine years in jail, Peterson was granted the right to a new trial and the series’ director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade began filming again. There was a 2013 sequel documenting his release from prison, and now, what is believed to be the final sequel will debut this summer. The trailer focuses on the twists in the case, which included the discovery that Peterson's close friend and the mother to his adopted daughters died at the bottom of the stairs years earlier (it was ruled an accident), the alleged murder weapon was in the garage covered in cobwebs, and detectives determined that Peterson was bisexual and his wife didn't know, which was given as a motive by the prosecution for why he might take her life.
The never-before-seen episodes of The Staircase, which pick up in 2017, promise more twists in this already exceptional case that whether you think Peterson is guilty or not will leave you frustrated with the justice system. And that has always been the point. At a panel at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival last month, which Bustle attended, de Lestrade explained that the purpose of the doc "has never been to look for the truth or to look for what happened that night. It was just to look at the way the justice system would treat the case, and it took 17 years."
In 2011, Peterson was freed from prison and given house arrest after it was found that the bloodstain analyst who testified for the prosecution in his case had falsely represented evidence in the past. When the show picks back up with Peterson, now in his 70s, he's deciding whether he should have a retrial and risk being put behind bars once again, or if he should take an Alford plea deal.
The deal would allow him to not admit to the criminal act, but to the fact that the prosecution has enough evidence to convict him, effectively working as a guilty plea in a court of law. But it would allow him to plead to a lesser change, such as manslaughter, and go free. (Peterson did make a choice, and if you don't want to know what it is, I recommend refraining from Googling his name until after you finish the show.)
It's not an easy choice and the series will touch on what goes into making this difficult decision, especially for Peterson's children. “In the beginning it was more courtroom drama,” de Lestrade said at the aforementioned Tribeca panel, but in these later episodes, the director felt connected to the family story. “We could show the aftermath of when the justice system destroys a family and consequences for each member of the family," he said. "It's very huge.”
Since The Staircase will once again focus on Peterson's trial, it's likely fans will still be debating whether Peterson committed the murder or not once these new episodes are all said and done. Expect Reddit to already be buzzing with theories the weekend The Staircase premieres.