Mike Peterson of Durham ‘Staircase’ fame to be interviewed on ‘Dr. Phil’

Revisit Durham’s most notorious murder trial. ‘The Staircase’ now streaming on Netflix.

"The Staircase," a documentary film series covering one of the most notorious trials in Durham history, has gone global on Netflix. The Michael Peterson saga took sixteen years to come to completion.
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"The Staircase," a documentary film series covering one of the most notorious trials in Durham history, has gone global on Netflix. The Michael Peterson saga took sixteen years to come to completion.

The “Dr. Phil” show will devote two episodes this week to interviews with Durham writer Mike Peterson, who was convicted in 2003 of the murder of his wife, Kathleen.

Kathleen Peterson died at the bottom of a back staircase at the couple’s home in December 2001. The story of the Peterson case has most famously been told through the Netflix documentary series, “The Staircase.”

Peterson, who was granted a new trial after SBI misconduct was revealed but took an Alford plea in 2017, told The News & Observer that he was flown to Los Angeles in March for the interview with psychologist Phil McGraw, known as Dr. Phil.

A representative of the “Dr. Phil” show confirmed Friday that the interview will be divided into two episodes, airing Monday, April 22, and Tuesday, April 23.

Peterson said the “Dr. Phil” show had been asking him for an interview for years, and he accepted this time so that he could promote his new book, “Behind the Staircase,” which he independently published in January. The book chronicles his life since Kathleen’s death, including his time in prison, and is available for purchase through Amazon in paperback or Kindle form.

“All profits are sent by Amazon to a special account designated for charities: Save the Children, The American Civil Liberties Union, and The Innocence Project,” Peterson said in an email.

Peterson said four New York publishers made “good offers” on his book but withdrew them when they learned of the $25 million wrongful death judgment against him — the result of a 2008 lawsuit brought by Kathleen’s daughter, Caitlin.

“It made no difference that I said all profits would go to charity and that I would make no money whatsoever,” Peterson said. “Unable to publish in the conventional way, I self-published the book on Amazon.”

The book description on the Amazon site reads: “The night Kathleen died. My trial and conviction for murder. Eight years in prison with murderers, rapists, thieves, gangbangers and pedophiles until my conviction is overturned and I am released. What has happened since — good and bad.”

Michael Peterson stands outside his lawyer’s office on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill Wednesday Dec. 21, 2011 shortly after he was released from house arrest. Peterson, 68 was released from prison after eight years when testimony by former SBI agent Duane Deaver was found to be perjured testimony by Judge Orlando Hudson. Chuck Liddy News & Observer file photo

The interview with Dr. Phil

Peterson said he spent several days in Los Angeles taping the “Dr. Phil” show. There was no audience, he said.

“The interview was just the two of us sitting side by side,” Peterson said. “His chair was much bigger and the studio was at 55 degrees. Dr. Phil was fair, no surprises, but we did not bond, though the interview was not adversarial. He seemed fixated on bisexuality and the amount of blood in the stairway where Kathleen died, but I had told him that I was willing to discuss any subject he wanted.

“We talked so long that the producer decided to make the interview two episodes.”

The “Dr. Phil” show airs locally at 3 p.m. on WRAL (repeats air at 11 a.m. the following day).

"Trials are about the defendant, but it's also about them," Michael Peterson said about working with David Rudolf who is well-known for the trials of Peterson and Ray Carruth, and now receiving more acclaim after the release of 'The Staircase'.

Watch a trailer for a documentary on the Michael Peterson case from Durham, NC and a theory that an owl attacked Peterson's wife Kathleen instead of him.

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Brooke Cain is a North Carolina native who has worked at The News & Observer for more than 20 years. She writes about TV and local media for the Happiness is a Warm TV blog, and answers CuriousNC questions for readers.