Netflix is tackling yet another true crime case this week with new episodes of The Staircase, a miniseries that initially aired in 2004. The Staircase follows the journey of Michael Peterson after he is accused of killing his wife, Kathleen, who was found dead at the bottom of a staircase in their home, according to the Associated Press. One of the biggest names surrounding the case was the District Attorney looking to put Peterson away, and now the spotlight is being refocused on his prosecution. It turns out Jim Hardin is still practicing law today, just in a different capacity.
Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder in 2003 following the trial Hardin was involved in, according to the same AP report, and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. But problems later arose with testimony given at his trial. In 2011, Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson determined that blood analyst Duane Deaver gave "false and misleading testimony," and Peterson was ordered a new trial, the article continues.
Another AP report states that early last year, Peterson accepted a plea deal, seemingly ending the case for good. The kind of plea deal involved is known as an "Alford plea," and it acknowledges the prosecutors' evidence is enough to convict, but allows the accused to maintain their innocence, the article states. He was then able to walk free, because his new sentence was less than the time he'd already spent in prison, according to the News & Observer.
According to the Herald Sun, Hardin has moved on from District Attorney status and is now a judge. The North Carolina courts website states that he made the jump from District Attorney to Special Superior Court Judge in 2005, and then was elected as a Resident Superior Court Judge in 2010. Ballotpedia.org states that Hardin was re-elected after being appointed by former Governor Bev Perdue, and that his current term in office expires in 2018.
Hardin also has a website outlining his accomplishments and work in the community. The work on Peterson's case, notably, does not seem to be mentioned anywhere on Hardin's own website. The site has since gone down — whether the domain expired or it was actively removed is unclear. It also doesn't appear that Hardin was involved in any litigation other than Peterson's initial trial. Bustle reached out to Hardin's office for comment about The Staircase and the Peterson case as a whole, but did not immediately receive a response.
The Staircase truly is an ever-changing narrative, so it makes sense if Hardin hasn't been exactly eager to regularly speak about it in years past. According to the Daily Beast, the doc first aired on French, British, and American television in 2004 through 2005. Then, it was revamped in 2013 with two new parts, and now Netflix has spearheaded the three newest episodes. All of them will be available once it starts streaming.
Hardin gave a couple comments about the case last year when speaking on a BBC podcast, according to the Herald Sun, and even hinted that he suspects there may have been someone helping Peterson following the murder. "Is there a mystery figure that helped him later?" Hardin said, according to the paper. "I believe: yes." He doesn't seem to elaborate about what he thinks may have happened with a second person, so that might be something that the Netflix episodes explore in the new episodes.
Even though it doesn't look like Hardin had much to do with the final legs of Peterson's case after the initial sentence was vacated, the Netflix documentary series does seem to heavily focus on him, at least in the beginning. The same Daily Beast article notes that despite displaying the evidence against Peterson, The Staircase tends to favor him, and illustrates the "myriad infuriating and exhausting ways" that the American judicial system functions. Apparently, the truth still remains unclear. True crime buffs will just have to see when The Staircase premieres who they come out believing.