The Staircase Case Not Over

Prior post recommended Academy Award recipient and French director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s documentary of a murder trial in Durham, North Carolina as an excellent tool for teaching both pretrial and trial techniques. The defendant in this documentary film of a murder trial is Michael Peterson (pictured on right with his attorney) who is accused of bludgeoning his wife to death and attempting to make it look like she fell down a flight of stairs.

In October of 2004, the jury convicted Peterson, and he served time in prison until on December 14th of this month, Judge Orlando Hudson granted him a new trial based upon a finding that the state’s bloodstain pattern analyst Duane Deaver gave misleading testimony. Agent Deaver had testified that he had reported on around 200 bloodstain cases when the defense contended he had only gone to 15 scenes. Deavers has been fired.

The documentary of the first trial is packed with interesting evidentiary issues as well as illustrations of trial techniques. The retrial, if some plea bargain is not reached, will be worth following. Too bad, director Lestrade won’t be there to document it.