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Inside The Staircase: Lessons from the Michael Peterson Murder Trial


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Inside The Staircase: Lessons from the Michael Peterson Murder Trial

A 3-Episode Video CLE Series like you've never seen!

He said she fell. The state said it was murder. It became The Staircase.

On December 9, 2001, Michael Peterson, veteran and author, living in North Carolina with his wife Kathleen, called emergency responders to assist with his wife whom he found at the bottom of the stairs in their home. What would ensue would be played out across the national and international media - secret lives, million dollar insurance policies, and one of the longest trials in North Carolina history.

Oscar-winning filmmaker Jean-Xavier de L’Estrade chronicled the prosecution of Michael Peterson as it was unfolding . The filmmakers gained unprecedented access to Peterson, his legal team, his family, and the state as they investigated and tried the case. The result is the first and best true crime documentary series, “The Staircase” (currently streaming on Netflix).

Using clips from the film, including never-before-seen footage, lead counsel David Rudolf appears in this illuminating 3-hour series with an all-star panel of guests to tackle some of the most important and areas of the law that any criminal practitioner will encounter, including cross-exam of experts, junk science, other acts evidence and ethics.

DATE: Available now, for a limited time
DURATION: Approx. 3 hours
CLE: This training may be eligible for self-study CLE credit, where authorized. The program is currently eligible for credit in the following states: Alaska (3.0), Arizona (3.0), California (3.0), Colorado (4.0), Connecticut (3.0), Illinois (3.0), Missouri (3.0), New Hampshire (3.0), New Mexico (3.0), New York (3.5), North Dakota (3.0), Pennsylvania (3.0), Vermont (3.0), Virgin Islands (3.5) West Virginia (3.6).

IMPORTANT NOTE: The Webinar link will be sent to you in a confirmation email after purchase. Registrants will have 7 days to watch

View a sample video trailer here:


EPISODE 1 (1 hour):
 - Combating Junk Science: Direct & Cross Examination of Experts
– Panel Participants: David Rudolf, Sonya Pfeiffer, Prof. Timothy Palmbach

In order to rebut the defendant’s claim that his wife died from a fall down the stairs as opposed to a savage beating, the state enlisted a small army of dubious “experts” to prove its case. Topics Addressed:  Recognizing when the “science” of your case is not science, understanding the limits of sound scientific technique, proper vetting of experts, direct and cross technique and tips, use of visual aids to aid in the jury’s understanding the science.

EPISODE 2 (1 Hour):
 - Confronting 404(B) Other Act Evidence
– Panel Participants: David Rudolf, Sonya Pfeiffer, Lisa Wayne

On trial for the murder of his wife, who was found at the bottom of a staircase in their North Carolina home, the prosecution seeks to introduce evidence from 18 years earlier in Germany where another woman in Mr. Peterson’s life was found dead – at the bottom of a staircase.  Topics Addressed:  The impact of “other act evidence” in criminal AND civil trials, investigating and litigating 404(b) allegations, assessing collateral issues with other acts, including memory, confabulation, and confirmation bias.

EPISODE 3 (1 Hour):
 - Ethical Issues in Plea Bargaining, Evidence, and the Media
– Panel Participants: David Rudolf, Sonya Pfeiffer, Karen Clark

During trial, a potentially key piece of evidence is discovered in the defendant’s garage. What are his ethical obligations to preserve or disclose the evidence to the state? Later, David Rudolf finds himself in the unenviable position of having to counsel a man who unwaveringly professes his innocence to take a plea. All the while, the case unfolds relentless media scrutiny. What are the ethical boundaries for a lawyer who needs to fight back in the public square? Topics Addressed:  Balancing your ethical duties to disclose evidence while still protecting your client, the ethics of plea-bargaining, and the ethics of dealing with the media.


David Rudolf | Charlotte, NC
Mr. Rudolf is a partner at Rudolf Widenhouse in Charlotte, NC. Rudolf founded his law firm in 1982 to represent the rights of people, and the firm has never wavered from that mission. Prior to that, he fought as a public defender and federal defender in the Bronx and Brooklyn. He also started the Criminal Law Clinic at the University of North Carolina Law School. 

Timothy Palmbach | New Haven, CT
In 2004, Timothy Palmbach joined the faculty of the University of New Haven as an Associate Professor and Chair of the Forensic Science Department. He has been associated with the faculty of that university since 1984 and is Executive Director of the Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science and Center for Forensic Investigation of Trafficking in Persons. In his role with the Lee Institute he has provided capacity building and training to law enforcement personnel throughout the world.  

Lisa M. Wayne | Denver/Boulder, CO
Lisa Wayne is a Colorado-based criminal defense lawyer who has practiced for more than thirty years. She is a national lecturer and professor at the University of Colorado, Cardozo Law and Harvard Law Schools. Wayne is also a national television legal analyst for ABC, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. She is a past-president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and currently represents clients in across the United States

Karen C. Clark | Phoenix, AZ
Karen Clark is a founding partner at Adams & Clark, PC. Clark has been practicing law for twenty years and focuses her practice on advising and representing lawyers and judges in discipline matters, bar admissions, reinstatements, fee disputes and expert witness issues. Clark is a former law clerk for the Arizona Court of Appeals and a former state public defender. She also served in the lawyer regulation department of the Arizona State Bar for eight years, arguing significant lawyer discipline cases before the Arizona Supreme Court. Clark has taught hundreds of seminars on legal ethics and professional responsibility before numerous organizations, associations, and committees. She is a member of the State Bar of Hawaii and the State Bar of Arizon

Sonya Pfeiffer | Charlotte, NC
Sonya Pfeiffer covered the case of State of North Carolina vs. Michael Peterson in 2003 while reporting for WTVD, the ABC affiliate in Raleigh-Durham, NC. Pfeiffer then reported and anchored at WCVB, the ABC affiliate in Boston, Massachusetts. She later produced an award-winning documentary film, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Social Justice , attended law school at UNC-Chapel Hill and is now a practicing criminal defense and civil rights attorney in Charlotte, NC, at Rudolf Widenhouse. In addition to her trial work, Pfeiffer regularly moderates discussions and panels on a variety of topics; through her background in journalism, filmmaking and law, Pfeiffer brings a unique perspective to conversations around The Staircase.

Producer | Doug Passon | Phoenix, AZ
Doug Passon ( ) has been practicing criminal defense for almost 24 years. He is also an award-winning documentary filmmaker and frequent CLE speaker. He combines his passion for filmmaking with his practice of law, producing short documentaries for use as mitigation at sentencing. Passon believes that lawyers deserve the very best when it comes to CLE. His mission is to deliver high-quality CLE content that not only educates but entertains. 


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