The incredible success of the two Netflix series, The Staircase and Making A Murderer, proves that people never get tired of hearing a good crime story. So popular were these shows – which focused on the judicial process in two highly publicised murder cases – that the lawyers involved in each have been invited to share their experiences on stage as part of an international tour. David Rudolf was the defence lawyer for Michael Peterson, the author accused of murdering his wife who was found in a pool of blood at the bottom of a staircase in their home in 2001. He is one of the lawyers going on tour to discuss the case. Asked why he believes true crime is so popular, Rudolf says:
“I think it’s the same thing that attracts people to craning their necks when there’s a car accident. There’s a macabre fascination with something that appears to be a very horrible situation.”
The Staircase examines the investigation and trial of the Peterson case; it’s a behind-the-scenes look at how the justice system works.
“When people see it as it actually is, I think it’s surprising to them, and it opens their eyes,” says Rudolf.
Although the trial has concluded, argument and speculation continue and there are still many unanswered questions.
“It was not your normal criminal case, you know. Normally when there’s a death and a criminal case and a murder charge, the issue is ‘who did it’ […] In this case, it wasn’t a ‘who dunnit’ it was a ‘what happened?’” explains Rudolf.
It’s a case that has more twists, mazes, and stairs to nowhere than an Escher drawing. The evidence was mostly speculative and circumstantial, with a heavy reliance on blood spatter analysis that later turned out to be deliberately false. A previous death in Germany, and Peterson’s concealed bisexuality were considered evidence, but there’s one thing that comes up repeatedly at audience events:
“Well people really want to know about the ‘owl theory’, so at events, I spend some time going through what the circumstantial evidence is that could support the ‘owl theory’.”
As for whether we will ever really know the truth, Rudolf doesn’t think so.
“I honestly don’t think there’s a single piece of evidence that would determine it one way or another.”
Mar 21. Enmore Theatre, 118-132 Enmore Rd, Newtown. $74.55-$156.10+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.enmoretheatre.com.au
By Rita Bratovich.