The Staircase (2022) s01e02 Episode Script


They say it's always the husband it's a tale as old as time and it's cliche.
But this case in durham this man This woman they're Wife of city council candidate dies special.
How can you be so sure? It's a love story set in the south.
Where nothing is as it seems.
Just sounds tragic to me.
This is our moment.
The world's looking at us.
We need our next film.
What do you want to show them? Franque, the bill please! I want to show something strong.
About justice, but how it truly is With the defense, prosecution, judge All saying different things about the same crime.
That's it! Pour vous.
Durham's liberal, yet traditional.
A big town that feels small.
The Peterson case is perfect.
What else do we have? Gary condit? He's white.
He's wealthy.
I like that.
But maybe too political No.
Too D.
Andrea Yates? Can a mother who kills her child be anything but a villain to a viewer? No, I don't think so.
Alex and Derek king! Alleged child killers.
Murdered their father while he slept.
They were only 12! No.
They're too young.
And Florida? Last time we were there Florida is bizarre.
Innocent? Guilty? The Peterson ending will always be tragic.
- Trust me on this, Jean.
- Okay! Fine.
Set up a call with this Mr.
And we'll see if he's at all interesting.
You won't regret this.
Didn't Mom used to put pineapples on it? I looked, I couldn't find any.
Well, it's going to be perfect.
Let's use the fancy glasses.
Yeah? Get! Get! Hey.
Just one more.
That's it.
Look what I found upstairs.
Mom's Christmas sweaters.
She kept all of them.
She bought a new one for this year.
Might be Dad.
Nope, it's the DA.
Won't fucking let up.
Jesus! It's your Auntie Blair.
I got it.
I got it.
- Good luck.
- Yes.
Hello? Merry Christmas, Margie.
Merry Christmas to you.
Did you get to mass? No, we didn't make it to church.
- But you prayed, though.
- Yeah, we prayed.
Margie, I've been thinking about Thanksgiving, what we spoke about? This has nothing to do with that.
I don't want to talk about it.
But I've been thinking about you girls, - about what happened in Germany.
- You know we don't remember Germany.
Look, our ham is ready.
I got to go.
- Okay.
I'm here if you need me.
- Merry Christmas.
God bless you girls.
Got it? - Yeah.
- It's Dad.
This is a call from the Durham County Jail.
Do you accept the charges? Yes, I accept the charges.
Well, isn't that sweet of you? I cover your ass for 25 years, and now you're finally willing to cough up some dough.
Yeah, for now.
I mean, it depends how long they keep you in there for.
Has your bail posted yet? Any day now.
Put Margaret on the phone, will you? - Hey, Dad.
- You guys unwrap presents yet? No, not yet.
They're not gonna do it themselves.
I know.
It's just, it's not the same without you.
Honey, nothing feels right about this.
The DA keeps calling.
Well, you just keep ignoring him.
So, have you spoken to Candace or Lori? I haven't gotten through.
What? Really? Nothing? No.
Look, just make sure everyone sticks together.
I miss you.
I miss you, too.
We all do.
I'll, I'll see you soon.
- Alright? - Okay.
- I love you.
- I love you.
- Love you.
- Love you, Dad.
Love you.
Hi, you've reached Mark, Ash, and Candace Zamperini.
Leave a message.
This is a call from the Durham County Jail.
Mark, darling, would you stoke the fire.
It's getting a little chilly.
- Jesus, man, be careful.
- Fuck off, Todd.
Caitlin, open your present.
She remembered what I wanted.
It's the wrong one.
Well, she has lots of presents to buy, so Had.
Mom just made a mistake.
People keep saying that she just made a mistake.
Like it's her fault that she died.
Look, it could happen to anyone.
Alright? She just had too much to drink and Stop saying that she was drunk.
No one said Mom did anything wrong.
- It just happened.
- She had some wine.
She was stressed out because she had to make money and work - and take care of everybody! - Caitlin, Caitlin No, she wasn't drunk, Todd, okay, you fucking asshole! Why are you suddenly calling her Mom? It's not like you ever called her that.
I mean, if she just fell down the stairs You know, this seems so fucking pointless.
Did you get those waiters? For Saturday? The ones with the bow ties.
For Sunday.
The fundraiser's on Sunday.
- Who told you that? - You did, Michael.
I'll be in New York on Saturday for Caitlin's parents' weekend.
You think anyone's going to show? You always worry about these things, and they always work out.
They work because of you.
I'll be there.
Don't you worry.
Remember we promised you'd give Clay a lift to school.
I remember! Thanks for the ride.
Dad said it wasn't a big deal since it's on your way to work.
It gives us a chance to catch up.
It's hard when everyone's so busy.
So what have you been up to? You know, just trying to figure out my money situation.
It's tight.
There never seems to be enough, right? And Becky? Work's good for her? You guys are good? Yeah, we're, it's fine.
Was the attack on the World Trade Center In your professional opinion, do you think we're going to experience a massive outbreak It's not your fault.
Ma'am, it's a mercy.
That's what we do.
Thank you, Officer.
You reach a clearing in the middle of a forest.
Your footsteps are light.
Count each step in your mind.
One two three - four - Four.
five - Hi.
- six - Am I interrupting? - seven - eight - I had a weird morning.
- nine - Well, John and Frank Dunn want a meeting.
- And again - When? Later this afternoon.
One, two Well, about what? three, four Okay.
- five - Sure.
You served? - Marines.
You? - Same.
Semper Fi till I die.
You from around here? Nah.
Just visiting.
Thought I'd check out the scene, see what Durham's about.
You want to tell me what it's about? You know, it's about this and that.
Mortgages, man.
I'm telling ya.
That's where the money's going.
Ya know? Is it just me, or is it like a sauna in here? Mr.
Jim! Read your column this week.
The target on my back is getting pretty heavy.
You keep going after the little guys.
You know, you rack up wins.
If you tackled a real issue, I'd let up.
Well, I'm sorry.
Sometimes the truth hurts.
You keep on lookin' for the truth.
One day, you might trip right over it.
So Nortel is going to write you a check for Kathleen's backpay.
That'll cover bail, Rudolf's retainer, initial fees.
I don't know how we're going to swing the rest.
We got bigger things to worry about.
Candace and Lori, they're not answering my calls.
Do you think the DA got to 'em? It's horseshit.
I mean, they never, never liked me.
I'm going to need a favor.
I need you to tell the kids about - You want me to tell them about - The photos.
You know, and, you know, my interest in They're going to ask, is it just the photos, or were you having an affair.
Bill, for Christ's sake.
An affair? Kathleen was the only one.
She really knew me.
Kathleen knew everything? Of course.
The police found some photos on your dad's computer.
Well, the photos were of an intimate nature.
And that nature was homosexual.
They were homosexual photos.
Just a bunch of stupid, stupid photos.
Okay? - Kids, you have any - So Dad's gay? - What? - No.
No, no, no, no.
He likes women.
He loved Kathleen.
Just, he likes the idea of men.
Right now, I know this is a lot to process, but it gets easier.
Wait, when did you find out? I guess I've always known since we were little.
You know, life wasn't always easy for your dad.
So Dad's bisexual? Bingo.
Did you guys know? Remember those jean shorts? - The really short ones.
- Did Mom know? - Those fucking shorts.
- I tried to throw 'em away.
No, wait, did Mom know? Yes, Kathleen knew.
Well, this doesn't matter.
- I mean, Dad's Dad.
- Right.
Dad's Dad.
Is that it? Yeah.
You've been locked up too long.
Let's get you the fuck out of here.
Make a path.
Make a path.
Make a path.
Take your time.
We have nothing to hide.
Michael, excuse me.
We'll be making a statement at a later date.
Thank you very much.
Excuse me.
Excuse me.
So, we're going to need access to your accounts, all your financials.
Bill, didn't you give this man his money? - Yeah.
Of course.
- No, no, no, no.
We need to do forensic accounting.
The DA's going to say you killed Kathleen because of your debt.
I killed her for the money? I just optioned my book.
Well, how much you get for that? He got ten.
Ten thousand.
The backend's ridiculous.
Well, Tom Maher's going to take care of financials.
- You met Tom yet? - No.
Bill, you just got to go.
They'll get out of the way.
What are we going to do about the DA? That's it.
There you go.
That's it.
Have you read the papers? Hardin's trying to make me look like, like Satan incarnate.
Don't sweat Hardin.
We got Judge Orlando Hudson.
Who's he? He and I go way back.
He's a good one.
Is that it, Ron? What about those French guys? Right.
This is a first for me.
I got a call from a couple documentarians.
I looked into them myself.
They're legit.
They even got a flick out now with some Oscar buzz.
They want to make a movie about the US justice system.
Our case would be some sort of example.
Really? What do you think? We could get a call lined up, but let's sit on it.
Not a priority.
Well, the French do have good taste.
He's here! - I love you! - We missed you.
It's so good to see you.
Hey, kid, get over here.
- Come on.
- It's good to have you home.
- That's better.
That's better.
- Are you okay? Alright, hold on, hold on.
- Let me go take a shower.
- We missed you! And get some of the stink off me.
I'm making you lasagna.
Got a nice bottle of red for you.
You guys talked to Uncle Bill, right? - Yeah.
Yeah, yeah.
- It went well? - It went well.
- Good.
Good! I got it! Fred.
My dad's here.
Hi, girls.
I am so sorry.
Thank you, Fred.
Let's just go outside.
I don't want to be indelicate here, but your mom's backpay from Nortel, they paid it out.
Plus the life insurance money, I mean.
It's a lot.
I mean, enough to rent something while all of this is happening.
Everyone can move together.
Mike didn't mention anything? No.
They don't really have time to talk to me unless it's about, like, scheduling an interview or something.
Candace keeps leaving these crazy messages about Mike and, like, things in the house he could have used to She wants me to go and check and see if anything's missing.
I am so sorry, Cay.
She keeps trying to tell me what I already know, that You already know what? Mike is bisexual.
Did Mom ever say anything to you? About Mike and that stuff? No.
Your mother and I, basically, just talked about you.
Cay, I don't know how to say this, but, the DA called.
Yeah, they're calling everyone.
But there's photos of Kathleen.
They were taken after she fell.
And they're going to be released.
And it sounds like these photos, are pretty bad, Caitlin.
And I do not want you to see them, you know, just accidentally on the cover of a newspaper or on TV or God knows where.
It's okay.
It's okay.
Why don't you, why don't you come stay with me tonight.
At the hotel? Okay? So catering's all set for Saturday.
And I thought you might want these.
Hey, did you hear anything? Now management's saying that they got it figured out, so they don't need the meeting.
Figured what out? I don't know.
And Caitlin's on line three.
What? What do you mean you're not coming? Well, I have to help Mike with his fundraiser.
I'm really sorry.
Why can't you make it up to Mike, Mom? Honey, the fundraiser is very important.
And it's happening this weekend, whether I want it to or not.
How about I come see you in two weeks? No.
It's not the same.
I'll just see you at Thanksgiving then.
No, don't be like that.
No, I got to go.
It's going to be a feature-length documentary focusing on the prosecution, defense, and the judge.
I got to say, I'm real concerned with confidentiality.
The tapes are being sent to Paris as we film.
It'll get a lot more complicated than just shipping some tapes.
But we've been there with our last movie.
Well, we haven't and that's what's important.
That's irrelevant.
So what you're saying is, you want to leave Paris and come to Durham? Yes, we'd relocate.
Well, that's absolute insanity.
I mean, Paris is beautiful.
And Durham is Durham.
Michael, Jean here.
Do you know Paris well? Intimately.
Kathleen and I wanted to retire there.
And we wanted to get a little place in the Marais.
Whichever case we focus on, we'll be making something for the ages.
You're talking to other people? Yes.
A few.
It's standard.
I'm worried about some things that will come to light, so to speak.
Well, I'm happy to, to address these concerns.
Kathleen and I were very much in love.
She was my soulmate.
Of that I'm sure.
But I'm also bisexual, which happens to be a problem for some people, you know, especially in Durham.
Michael, for us, your sexuality is not a problem.
Listen, we'll give it some thought.
Let's stay in touch.
Thank you.
- Hey.
- Hi.
- How's the hotel? - It's fine.
Thanks for meeting me here.
The house is so stressful.
Can't wait until they clean everything up.
So I've been thinking, Mike lied to us.
What do you mean? About like, small things.
I mean, Dad tells stories.
But like, the Purple Heart thing.
Like, we didn't know that he was gay.
- Bisexual - Okay, bisexual.
That's like an important part.
It's a very important part of who somebody is.
And he kept that from us.
From all of us.
- I mean, not from Mom.
- No, she would have told me.
What, she would have told you about her sex life? No, not the details, but she would have found a way to let me know.
Like, she told me.
She told me what happened with my Dad, Fred, what he did, and how he cheated on her.
Yeah, but Dad didn't cheat on Mom.
- You think it's gross? - No, I don't think it's gross.
I think it's wrong, okay.
They were married, and she loved him.
How did a woman end up at the bottom of the stairs dead from blunt force trauma? With an object heavy enough to kill but light enough not to fracture a skull.
Now that's a difficult combination to replicate for most.
But not for us.
At SBI, we get it done.
You want me to run inside so you can continue ruminating? Need anything? Only that you'll hurry back, right? That be it for you? I gotta get going.
Little bird I need to hear from you.
Please call me back.
- What happened? - Nothing.
It's nothing, I think.
It's a big day for us.
We've got two stories to tell.
The story of what happened that night and the story of the great love between you and Kathleen.
I haven't been able to find anyone that's willing to say one bad thing about you two.
Most folks were jealous.
I hate to think what my neighbors would say about me and the wife.
But we can't find anyone willing to testify that Kathleen knew about your diverse interests.
You talked to my friends about that? That's what we do.
Got to know what the DA is going to dig up on you.
As long as you're honest with us, we don't expect any surprises from the DA.
- Right, Ron? - I got eyes in the courthouse.
Which is how I came about these.
Hold up.
So these are, Kathleen's autopsy photos.
You need to look at them.
Why? All autopsy photos are bad, Mike.
These are worse.
I don't want you to be surprised in the courtroom.
I'm a veteran, David.
I've seen death.
Doesn't mean I need to see more of it.
I wouldn't ask you if I didn't think it was important.
Well, I'm not looking at them.
Not tonight.
Not ever.
You see that? That's how my wife deserves to be remembered.
Photos of her lying in some morgue, that's not Kathleen.
Look, we hear you, Mike, but we need you to take a look at these photos.
I don't even know why I'm listening to this.
I'm tired.
I'm going to bed.
Hey, you want to see what your mom looked like? Of course not, Dad.
Oh, good.
That's good.
You're a beautiful young woman.
Your mother was beautiful as well.
Inside and out.
Can you tell me about her? I'm sorry, do you mind if we don't talk about my mom right now? Of course.
Of course.
You have two stepsisters, Margaret and Martha Ratliff.
How are you all holding up? We're okay.
At least we're trying to be okay.
This is a tough time.
Yeah, it is.
It's made even more difficult by seeing your stepfather, Michael Peterson, being accused of hurting, of killing your mother.
You clearly think so highly of him.
"Michael Peterson stopped my mother's tears.
"He restored her strength and her confidence "and showed her that she could find true love after my father's deceit.
" Wait, where did you get that? It's a school paper you wrote.
Yes, but how did you get it? David, Mr.
Rudolf, gave it to me.
Mike saved it and thought you'd like to share it considering the circumstances.
I think actually I need a minute.
I'm sorry, can I use, can I use your bathroom? Mike, you upstairs? That looks great, you guys.
So just through to the dining room.
Michael, will you please grab my shoes? Just straight through there.
Thank you so much.
Hi! You're a lifesaver.
- Thank you.
- The place looks great.
You're going to make Mike a million bucks.
I'd settle for ten grand.
And look who I ran into at the florist? - Dennis the Menace.
- Hey.
Oh my gosh.
Dennis Rowe.
Here, thank you.
I hope you don't mind an underdressed guest.
Come as you are, as long as you got a checkbook.
Let's go get the rest of the flowers.
- Yeah.
- Thanks, you guys.
- See you in a minute - Yeah.
See ya.
Mike, let me introduce you to the team.
Henry Lee, our blood guy.
Werner Spitz, who wrote the book on forensic pathology.
Faris Bandak, injury biomechanics.
And Tim Palmbach, our crime scene analyst.
Why don't we take a look up close? Faris, why don't you get in there and see if you need to be close up.
- Werner.
- Nah, this is too tight.
- Hey.
- It's Brent.
how's it going? I only got a minute.
- I got a big event tonight.
- Yeah? I'm kind of a powerful guy.
You could show me next week.
Let's make sure our dates don't change again.
- I really want to meet you.
- I promise.
- Mike! Guests are arriving! - Next week.
See you then.
Come on.
What are you doing? People are here.
- Jesus, look at you.
- What? Bam, the head only hits once, but the impact causes multiple wounds.
The flesh splinters.
Even so, one fall can't explain seven lacerations.
Two falls then? It helps to explain the blood on the soles of her feet.
Hey, come So we're in the locker room, and Hardin's whining about my articles.
That bingo hall expose was incendiary stuff.
Honestly, we got rapists running around Durham, and Hardin's wasting finite resources going after bingo halls.
Hope none of your grandmothers got busted.
Unless they're also rapists.
Dennis, meet Michael, Kathleen's husband.
Dennis Rowe.
Nice to meet you.
You're the one running for office? Yes.
A pleasure.
Now, where is that wife of mine? Now's just, it's really not a good time.
Can you just send the documents to my email? I'll get that right over.
Did you bring your laptop home? Yeah, of course.
I brought my laptop home.
It's, you know, it's my third leg.
Kathleen, where are you hiding? I've got more to go over with you, like the Let me call you back.
Yes, I'll call you back.
You can put the checks in the basket there.
Thank you! So this is where she's falling back down the stairs, and then she hits her head right here.
The back.
Then she goes down, hitting her head a second time here and ended up here, then the cough.
And on this side and she turns over her head and then See, that's both sides.
And then she will try to pull herself up.
That's why the blood marks on the wall, and then loses her balance, goes back all the way here.
And then that is her last position.
Speech, Michael.
Let's hear from the candidate.
That would be me.
Thank you.
Every man deserves a second chance.
But not every man gets one.
So I'm honored to receive so much support for mine.
I couldn't be happier to be running for city council.
Durham means the world to me.
And so do all of you.
But before it gets too late, let me introduce the evening's entertainment.
The Durham Dance Company.
Look at this.
You're incredible.
I'm tired, Michael.
Like, all the time.
To my bones.
I need help.
I know, baby.
I know.
I'll make it easier, I promise.
I promise.
Help! Help! Anybody! Help me! Somebody! Help! I need help! Anybody! Help me! - Mike.
- Help! - Mike, help me.
- Please! Hey, buddy.
Help! Let's take a walk.
I need help! Anybody! Help me! Help! Anybody.
Help She's on the stairs.
You're by the pool.
You couldn't hear a goddamn thing out here.
Hey, you've reached Caitlin Atwater.
Please leave your name and number, and maybe I'll get back to you.
Honey, it's me.
I wanted to say sorry for missing parents' weekend.
Mike's night was a hit.
He may even win this thing.
Sometimes things happen in life, and you got to make a choice about what to do.
And there's no clear right way, and there's no clear wrong way.
What I'm trying to say is, sometimes there's no option that's going to make you feel completely good.
So, you gotta look at your choices and make a tough decision.
I know you're upset, but I'll make it up to you.
'Cause I'm your mom.
I love you.
You're stuck with me, kid.
Oh my god! Kathleen suffered numerous injuries.
For fuck's sake.
After tonight, we can account for nearly all of them.
Alright? She wasn't beaten to death by her husband with some sort of a weapon.
She wasn't attacked by an intruder.
Kathleen fell.
Mike and Kathleen eat dinner.
They watch a movie, "America's Sweethearts.
" She speaks briefly to a coworker before they decide to end an already lovely evening by taking in the stars.
Stay for one more.
Why shut out the day before it is done? Because some of us have jobs.
I got to get some stuff done before bed.
You take a pill to help you sleep? Yeah.
Come to bed soon, okay.
Let's do it tomorrow.
Oh god, Michael, help me! And when Mike finds her, she's still breathing.
So he holds her, he grabs towels, wipes her face clean.
He calls 911.
Begs for help.
But, it's too late.
You know, sometimes, when we do everything we can, it's still not enough.
It's never enough.
Alright, so she falls twice.
Blood's everywhere.
What about the scratches on her face? What about the, you know, broken, you know, neck bone? - Thyroid.
- I'm sorry.
- Thyroid cartilage.
- Thank you.
I mean, do we say how she got those? - No.
- Why not? Because you don't get them falling down the stairs.
Maybe her throat hit the wood, her face banged the wall.
I'm not worried about it.
Sorry I'm late.
This is Miss Black.
She's my assistant DA on the case.
I know, she left messages.
Fred Atwater.
- Caitlin's father.
- Fred? Well, isn't that something? I'm Freda.
My daddy wanted a boy, but he got me instead, so he just went ahead and added an A.
Can we just get on with it, please? Yes, ma'am.
As we said, autopsy photos fall into public domain.
That means that eventually, they'll be everywhere.
For anyone to see.
How bad was she hurt? There were a variety of injuries.
Bruises, scratches, lacerations.
Defensive wounds.
Your mom lost a lot of blood.
Her blood alcohol was 0.
07 with a Valium level of 0.
15 milligrams per liter.
To put it simply, by legal standards, she wasn't intoxicated when she died.
Oh god.
Oh god.
Oh god.
Oh god! Caitlin, we firmly believe your mom didn't die from an accidental fall.
We believe Michael Peterson killed her.
With what? What does that? The weapon's yet to be identified.
Wait, what the fuck? Yeah.
What the fuck is right.
I thought she was smarter than that.
But Fred's an idiot, so.
What does this mean? Well, clearly, it means we can't talk to her anymore.
We can't talk to anyone.
Family is all we got.
Remember, this takes time.
The trial's not going to start for months.
Caitlin has one hour.
She needs to stick to her room, only her room.
She would like some of Kathleen's jewelry, if possible.
That will be settled with the estate.
Now there's one more thing.
Some filmmakers are going to be making a documentary about the case.
- Is this a good idea? - It's not necessarily a bad one.
It could be a good way for me to tell my side of the story.
Do we have to do anything? No.
Girls, just go back to school.
Live your lives.
Clay, you gotta move to Baltimore with Becky.
Keep you out of the spotlight.
And Todd, you got to step up, be the man of the house while I'm distracted by all this fucking nonsense.
I have to get my hair stuff.
It's in the bathroom.
Your home, it's lovely.
We're excited to begin the process.
As am I.
So where do we start this thing? How about where the night began? Kathleen and I were watching a movie, "America's Sweethearts.
" I think it was probably around eleven o'clock.
And, it's something we would do.
You know, watch movies.
And when the movie ended, we took our wine.
And what we would usually do on a nice night, is we would come on out to the pool.
Because it's, I always think about pretty much the nicest place on the property.
Keep walking.
We're doing a wide shot.
So I stayed out by the pool, and Kathleen had a conference call, you know, some kind of work obligation in the morning.
So, that was it.
Down by the pool, that was the last time I saw Kathleen alive.
No, she was alive when I found her here.
But barely.
Barely alive? I've never seen anyone so uncomfortable.
Michael, making a documentary is more than filming and talking.
It's about a relationship.
And you and I, we're just getting to know each other.
So it's always a little strained in the beginning.
You thought I was strained? We'll just do it again.
- Do it again? - Yes.
With more emotion.
I want to see how you really feel.
I just told you how I feel.
Yes, of course.
Of course.
But, when you go to bed at night, you know, and the room becomes dark and you start thinking about your wife.
No, I'm not going to prostrate myself for the sake of your film.
Okay? You go talk to the DA for that.
For Christ's sakes.
Who's that? That's my mother.
I mean, Patty told me she booked a room at the Holiday Inn, I didn't believe her.
Hello! I saw that you were busy, and I didn't want to bother you.
You did the right thing.
I know Kathleen loved those girls, but they're a lost cause now.
You know that she'd been laying there a whole hour before she died? Do you think she was in a lot of pain? Oh my god.
Oh my god.
Oh my god.
What are you doing? That son of a bitch.
What are you doing? - Candace! - What are you doing? Candace, stop! - Candace, stop! - Candace! You're scaring us.
Son of a bitch.
That son of a bitch used the blow poke.
That son of a bitch used the blow poke!
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