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The Staircase Brings a Tragic and Controversial Case to Life on HBO Max

Guilty or innocent? The shocking investigation and trial of Michael Peterson has been adapted into a limited series.

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  • Photo Credit: HBO Max

Michael Peterson was a war veteran and novelist, while his wife, Kathleen, was a successful Nortel business executive. It seemed like they were living the perfect life. Until one night in December of 2001, when Michael placed a call to the emergency line claiming that his wife had fallen down the stairs.

Michael speculated his wife's fall was caused by combining alcohol and valium. But an autopsy indicated Kathleen's death was a result of a homicidal assault. As the first person at the scene, Michael became the prime suspect. The ensuing trial gathered an abundance of media attention and dug deep into the most private corners of the Peterson's lives. In 2003, Michael was convicted for Kathleen's murder. After his original conviction was overturned, he entered an Alford plea at the retrial, conceding enough evidence exists to convict him of the offense, but asserting his innocence. He was released with time served, but many questions still remain.

Now the sordid tale which first gripped audiences with the 2004 documentary The Staircase has come to HBO Max as a limited series. Presented in 8 episodes, this fictionalized account tells this complicated story from all angles, weaving together three separate timelines. While capturing the impact this tragedy had on the Peterson family, the series also manages to touch on the impact the media had on the case, leading to a 16-year drudge of misery for all involved.

Related: The Staircase: A True Crime Documentary That Surprises Even After It Ends

Created by Antonio Campos (The Devil All the Time), this series is full of heavy-hitting stars. Michael Peterson and his late wife Kathleen are played by screen legends Colin Firth (Devil's Knot) and Toni Collette (Hereditary). Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones), Dane DeeHan (A Cure for Wellness), Odessa Young (The Stand), Patrick Schwarzenegger (Daniel Isn't Real), and Olivia DeJonge (The Visit) fill out the cast of their children. Parker Posey (The Eye), Michael Stuhlbarg (Dopesick), Rosemarie DeWitt (United States of Tara), and more support the rest of the story.

To see more about The Staircase before you head over to HBO Max, take a look at the chilling trailer below.

For more information on this sensational true crime case, check out A Perfect Husband by Aphrodite Jones.