from Academy Award-winning filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade

THE STAIRCASE – new episodes coming soon

Sundance Channel will premiere two new installments of the critically acclaimed crime documentary THE STAIRCASE by Oscar®-winning director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade (MURDER ON A SUNDAY MORNING). Beginning January 7 at 10P, Sundance Channel will air an encore performance of the original eight-part, Peabody Award-winning series in its entirety—a program described by The New York Times as “a masterpiece…so brilliantly conceived, reported, filmed and paced that you may come to wish it were twice as long.” Following the first eight installments, Sundance Channel will debut two hour-long never-before-seen episodes entitled THE STAIRCASE: LAST CHANCE, which will explore new and explosive developments in the life of author Michael Peterson whose sensational murder trial made headlines across the country.  The new episodes air on March 4th and March 11th at 10P.

THE STAIRCASE, which follows the thrilling twists and turns of the investigation into the cause of death of Durham, NC resident and Nortel executive Kathleen Peterson, made its television premiere on Sundance Channel on April 4, 2005.  The original eight tautly structured chapters of THE STAIRCASE, culled from 14 months of shooting and 650 hours of footage, revealed the true and utterly gripping details of a man whose life was clearly on the line.

As documented in THE STAIRCASE, Michael Peterson swears his wife’s death was the tragic result of a fall — Peterson’s sons and adopted daughters rally to his defense and his legal team prepares to battle the prosecution.  Meanwhile, Durham’s district attorney and his assistant build a case that will put the Peterson marriage – and Michael Peterson’s private life – at the center of the trial.

Ultimately Michael Peterson was found guilty of killing his wife.  To press their case, the District Attorney uncovered incredible truths about Peterson’s sexuality and his suspected involvement in a similar case 18 years prior. Further supporting their theory, a blood spatter expert provided extensive testimony confirming that this was no accident. But was he telling the truth?

In a stunning follow-up to the original court case, THE STAIRCASE: LAST CHANCE reveals the shocking discoveries and an astounding revelation that opens the door for the convicted murderer’s final appeal. Viewers will have the chance to find out the judge’s ruling in this mind-bending murder trial and decide for themselves if Michael Peterson is truly innocent or a cold-blooded killer.

Episodes and airdates for THE STAIRCASE are as follows:

Monday, January 7 at 10P e/p

Chapter 1: Crime or Accident. Michael Peterson recalls the night of December 9, 2001, which began with dinner, wine and a rented movie, and ended with his wife Kathleen’s death.  After Peterson is charged with murder, his attorney David Rudolf begins working with the investigators and experts who will be critical to Peterson’s defense.

Monday, January 14 at 10P e/p

Chapter 2: Secrets and Lies. Shocking revelations about Michael Peterson’s private life pose new issues for his defense team, as it becomes clear that the prosecution will use these details to torpedo characterizations of the Peterson marriage as idyllic.  Peterson discusses the culture and politics of Durham, subjects he frequently addressed when he was writing a local newspaper column.

Monday, January 21 at 10P e/p

Chapter 3: A Striking Coincidence. In the spring of 2002, the case takes another surprising turn when prosecutors turn their attention to the 1985 death of Elizabeth Ratliff, a military widow who was found dead at the bottom of the stairs of her home in Germany.  The last person to have seen Ratliff alive is believed to have been her close friend and neighbor, Michael Peterson.  Peterson subsequently adopted Ratliff’s two daughters, who must now deal with new accusations against the man who raised them.

Monday, January 28 at 10P e/p

Chapter 4: A Prosecution Trickery. The defense team is forced to contend with the prosecution’s latest bombshell concerning the death of Elizabeth Ratliff.  In April 2003, there is a pre-trail hearing regarding evidence, a proceeding that ends with yet another twist.  On July 1, 2003, the trial begins with opening statements.

Monday, February 4 at 10P e/p

Chapter 5: A Weak Case. District Attorney Jim Hardin lays out the prosecution’s case and calls witnesses to testify about three points of evidence: the amount of blood at the scene; Kathleen’s head lacerations; and the potential murder weapon, a fireplace tool called a blowpoke.  Rudolf puts on a tough cross-examination.

Monday, February 11 at 10P e/p

Chapter 6: The Prosecution’s Revenge. The court rules on key evidentiary issues, and the prosecution calls several witnesses who give emotionally charged testimony.  Meanwhile, the trial is receiving extensive and often sensational coverage in the media.

Monday, February 18 at 10P e/p

Chapter 7: The Blowpoke Returns. The defense begins presenting its case, which relies heavily upon such experts as a biomechanical engineer and a prominent forensic scientist.  But the outcome may finally come down to a stunning find by Michael Peterson’s oldest son.

Monday, February 25 at 10P e/p

Chapter 8:  The Verdict. The long trial reaches its conclusion and Michael Peterson learns his fate – at least, for the immediate future.

Monday, March 4 at 10P e/p

Chapter 9: The Staircase Last Chance – Reopening the Case. Eight years ago, Michael Peterson was found guilty of killing his wife. There may just be one chance left to appeal his case, or Peterson will die behind bars.

Monday, March 11 at 10P e/p

Chapter 10: The Staircase Last Chance – Final Appeal. An astounding revelation opens the door for Michael Peterson’s final appeal. The prosecution’s blood spatter expert has been exposed as a fraud, and the defense team seeks a retrial. Whether Peterson is truly innocent or a killer, will justice prevail?