Sunday, March 20, 2016

Dateline: "Reversal of Fortune": bizarre murder case involving the staircase death of a bisexual novelist


NBC Dateline’s Saturday Night Mystery, “Reversal of Fortune”, combined a lot of elements:  prosecutorial misconduct, a book author, bisexuality, and even one of Hitchcock’s films.
 
Michael Peterson is the author of some reputedly violent war books, including “The Immortal Dragon”, “Charlie: Two Shoes and the Marines of Love Company”, “A Time of War”, and “A Bitter Peace” (source ). They seem to have military themes, which itself is interesting ("DADT").

 The Dateline episode, described in Inquisitr, focused on the death of his second wife who fell down stairs on Dec. 9, 2001, when the couple was living near Durham, NC in a mansion, and had accumulated a lot of debt.  Apparently Peterson was able to live off of his novels.  Because the death resembled the death of an earlier wife in Germany in 1985, the police became suspicious, exhumed an earlier body (buried in Texas) and built a case.  Peterson had claimed this was a simple fall (like in “Gone with the Wind”) but aided by overuse of prescription drugs.

One of the motives had to do with Peterson’s hiring male escorts.  According to him, his wife knew of his bisexuality, and they still had a good marriage sexually.  One escort from Raleigh (who looked familiar, from my own visits to the area) testified.

75 minutes into the 2 hour episode, we learn of the jury’s guilty verdict after 4 days of deliberation, on circumstantial evidence.

Although efforts to get a new trial fail at first, eventually the defense is able to show hiding of evidence, and Peterson was released in 2012, under house arrest, pending a new trial.

One of the theories came right out of Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds”, that an owl attacked his second wife before she collapsed.



Peterson has been the subject of a French documentary series "Staircase" ("Soupcons") by Jean Xavier de Lestrade.

Again, Dateline's episodes rival more conventional films in presenting true-life mystery.

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