The Staircase: Q&A with David Rudolf

Alex Gervas reports on the talk about true crime series The Staircase

Alex Gervas
24th February 2020
Credit: NativeTalks
Last Thursday the 13th, Native Talks organised a Q&A with defence attorney David Rudolf at the Venue in the Student’s Union.

David Rudolf was Michael Peterson’s lawyer, accused of killing his wife in 2001. The case was widely covered, and Netflix produced a short series about the case called The Staircase, directed by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade. After a delay of approximately half an hour, the doors were finally opened, and not long after that, Mr Rudolf came onto the stage as charmingly as he appeared in the documentary. Rudolf blamed the delay on “technical difficulties” with the PowerPoint presentation, and referenced the series, to when before the first trial, Rudolf and his team had trouble making the presentation work. 

The session started by Rudolf addressing what he called “Fake Science”. In the light of the results of Peterson’s trial, the lawyer decided to talk about how jurors should take experts’ opinion with a grind of salt. As portrayed in The Staircase, the testimony of blood spatter analyst, Duane Deaver, was crucial for jurors to make up their minds about the verdict. Rudolf explained the scientific theories in an understandable and clear manner for everyone to understand. He ran through the holes of Deavers statement focusing on the ‘good science’, hidden from the jury and judge. 

This first question sent Rudolf into the alternative theories

After multiple problems with the presentation, the Q&A section began, and it did not take long for the most controversial topic to come up: “The Owl Theory”. This first question sent Rudolf into the alternative theory that Kathleen Peterson could have been killed by an owl as opposed to being beaten-up. The following questions focused mostly on the justice system. Rudolf was asked if he thought juries and judges should have technical knowledge in order to evaluate experts’ opinion. Rudolf believed it is necessary and that it is the lawyers’ place to do it. He added that during Peterson’s trial he “offered and they didn’t want to spend the time”.

During the Q&A he said: “It took me a long time to get over,”

During the session, Rudolf expressed regret and disappointment when referring to the proceedings of the Petersons’ case. During the Q&A he said: “It took me a long time to get over,” and while he reassured it had not affected his other cases, he added: “After that, I started to take wrongfully convicted cases.

Despite the delays and technical difficulties, Rudolf, manage to keep the show going with sense of humour.

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