The Staircase has been widely lauded as one of Netflix’s best ever crime documentaries, as millions of viewers have been captivated by the trial of Michael Peterson, who was accused of killing his wife Kathleen.
Its director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade never expected to spend 15-years following Michael Peterson and examining his case. In fact, during my recent interview with Lestrade, the French filmmaker admitted that he originally made the documentary just to complement his previous film “Murder On A Sunday Morning.”
The 2001 film followed the case of Brenton Butler, a young, poor African American who was accused of murdering a tourist in Jacksonville, Florida back in 2000. With “The Staircase,” Lestrade wanted to examine the differences in the justice system when the accused is a wealthy, white man.
“I never followed Michael Peterson’s case to search for the truth, or see myself as a judge or a lawyer. I just wanted to follow the way that the justice system treats that case.”
“And to really understand why I did this story you need to know that before I did ‘The Staircase’ I did a film called ‘Murder On A Sunday Morning.’ This involved a black teenager who came from a very modest family and was accused of killing a woman in Florida.”
“I wanted to do a film on a white guy, wealthy, and known in his own community, articulate, and can spend thousands and thousands of dollars to defend himself. I wanted to see how you can defend yourself if you have thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars, and ask, ‘Does it make a difference?’ And of course it does.”
“Because if you have no money it can be very expensive. But on the other side if you have police detective who are ready to lie on the stand it can be devastating for you. Then it doesn’t matter how much money you have to defend yourself.”
Unfortunately, “Murder On A Sunday Morning” currently isn’t available on Netflix. Let’s hope that the success of “The Staircase” convinces the streaming site to add it in the very near future.