Is Michael Peterson Really Guilty? Saturday’s ‘Dateline’ Features Story from Netflix’s ‘The Staircase’

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Author Michael Peterson will be featured on NBC’s Dateline on Saturday. Convicted of a felony but set free, the author will address the death of his wife, Kathleen. Peterson was convicted of killing Kathleen in 2003 after she was found unresponsive at the bottom of a staircase in their home.

“It was a dream. Sex, money, murder. My God, what more could you have?” Peterson says in the Dateline trailer. The footage shows Peterson agreeing he was the only suspect for the entirety of the murder investigation.

To this day, Peterson maintains his innocence. Kathleen’s fall was an accident.

Peterson’s story was featured in the Netflix documentary series The Staircase. From the moments of Kathleen’s death to the trial and eventual release of Peterson, his family is documented as their lives are shaped by Peterson’s conviction.

The Staircase, directed by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, first debuted eight episodes in 2004. Five additional episodes have been released since.

Lestrade, who spent 15 years filming the series, is not sure what he thinks of Peterson’s maintained innocence.

“When he was talking about Kathleen, I really felt that he was very sincere about their relationship, about the love they shared,” he told Time in June. “But at the same time, I kind of formed an intuition that there was something else. I’m not saying he was guilty, but I had a feeling there was something else.”

Investigators alleged Peterson bashed Kathleen over the head, resulting in a dramatic amount of blood found with her body at the bottom of the stairs. During his trial, the forensics were barely disputed, though now, his lawyer and forensic experts say there are no substantial wounds to support that claim, according to The Staircase.

As for the motive, The Staircase explained Peterson lived a secret life. Files of gay porn were found on Peterson’s computer, as were sexual email correspondences with men. Peterson, however, stated Kathleen knew about his promiscuity.

Peterson admitted to being unfaithful, though he explained Kathleen knew he didn’t love anyone but her. He defined the difference between romantic love and sexual encounters, which he felt were appropriate.

On Dateline, Peterson will speak about his conviction and the death of Kathleen as a free man. Peterson entered an Alford Plea in February 2017, in which he pleaded guilty to manslaughter, according to the News Observer. The Alford Plea allowed Peterson to maintain his innocence, but plead guilty solely for the purpose of ending the trial and going free. 

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