The defence lawyer who worked on the murder trial that inspired the HBO drama The Staircase has now given credit to the previously dismissed theory that Kathleen Peterson was attacked by an owl.
North Carolina lawyer David Rudolf represented Michael Peterson during his 2003 trial when he was convicted of the murder of his second wife Kathleen, after she was found unconscious and bleeding out at the bottom of their home’s staircase on December 9, 2001.
However, following more than a decade of legal battles, Peterson was retrialed and sentenced to time served in 2017, and has been a free man ever since, although suspicions remain over his involvement in Kathleen’s death.
In 2009, Durham attorney T. Lawrence Pollard, who was a neighbour of the Petersons came up with the theory that Kathleen might have fallen inside the house and hit her head on the first step of the staircase after being attacked by a barrel owl outside.
Speaking to Lorraine today, David said that although it was dismissed early on in the legal proceedings, there is ‘plausible’ evidence that the ‘Owl Theory,’ as it’s become known, could be true.
North Carolina lawyer David Rudolf, left, represented Michael Peterson during his 2003 trial that saw him convicted for the murder of his second wife Kathleen has now given credit to the previously dismissed theory that Kathleen was attacked by an owl
Speaking to Lorraine today, David said that although it was dismissed early on in the legal proceedings, new research had brought ‘plausible’ evidence that the ‘Owl Theory,’ as it’s become known, could be true.
While it became known to the public in 2009, Rudolf said the theory of the owl attack was brought up to him in 2003, at the time of Peterson’s first trial.
‘I dismissed it when it first came up in late late 2003 just before I was giving my closing arguments,’ Rudolf said.
‘It was dismissed pretty extensively at that time but then over the years, there were more and more owl attacks on humans.
‘Larry Pollard, who first came up with the theory was able to get experts to support it. And in fact, now that I go back and look at some of the evidence in the case, the evidence in the case tend to support it,’ the lawyer added.
Following more than a decade of legal battle, Peterson, left, was retrialed and sentenced to time served in 2017, and has been a free man ever since, although suspicions remains over his involvement in Kathleen’s death (pictured with Kathleen before her death)
‘I can’t say that the owl did it, but I can say it’s a plausible theory,’ he added.
Pollard began to suspect an owl might have been involved in Kathleen’s death when the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) listed that a feather was found with her body during the police investigation.
According to a SBI report at the time, a small owl feather and a wooden sliver had been found in Kathleen’s left hand, in a clump of hair that looked like it had been pulled out by the roots.
The hair was re-examined in September 2008, and two more microscopic owl feathers were found.
Before his closing argument back in 2003, Rudolf dismissed a theory that Kathleen might have been attacked and disoriented by an owl pictured in 2017 when Peterson took an Alford Plea)
Rudolf also came to the defence of Jean Xavier de Lestrade, who directed the 2018 Netflix 13-parts docu-series into the case, pictured
The theory was ridiculed in 2009, and Deborah Radisch, who conducted Kathleen’s autopsy, said at the time it was unlikely an owl would have made the deep lacerations that were found on Kathleen’s scalp.
However in 2010, Radisch’s opinion was challenged by three other experts in three different affidavits.
The case of Kathleen’s death has been the subject of several shows, podcast and books over the years.
Speaking of the latest HBO drama on the case staring Colin Firth as Peterson, where David is played by Michael Stuhlbarg, the lawyer said he was left ‘disappointed’ by the show.
He said the drama got ‘a lot of things wrong that they could have easily got right’ and that some of the errors in the show are ‘unfortunate.’
He also came to the defence of Jean Xavier de Lestrade, who directed the 2018 Netflix 13-parts docu-series into the case.
The Netflix series has been accused of bias after it came out that its editor, French woman Sophie Brunet, fell in love with Peterson while working on the project.
The defence lawyer said that while he can’t say that ‘the owl did it,’ he said there is some ‘plausible’ evidence that an owl was involved
Some have claimed that because of her relationship with Peterson, Brunet left out important parts of the trials and prosecution on the editing room’s cutting floor to make him look good in the series.
‘HBO undermines the integrity of Jean de Lestrade, and that’s unfair and completely untrue,’ Rudolf said.
Speaking of Peterson himself, the lawyer said he did ‘some due diligence’ when he got into the novelist’s case back in 2001.
‘Everything he told me was in fact true, independent sources confirmed it, I believed him, and I’ve continued to believe him up until today,’ he told Lorraine.
Michael Peterson has continually denied responsibility for his wife’s death. He was convicted in her death in 2003, and was re-tried until he eventually accepted an Alford plea in 2017, which enabled him to take a reduced manslaughter sentence while not admitting guilt in his wife’s death, and be released from custody.
The plea is treated as guilty by the court but allows the accused to maintain their innocence while admitting that there was enough evidence to convict them.
Following the plea, Michael declared his innocence, saying of the legal move, according to the AP: ‘Right now, I can live with this. It’s not fair, It’s not right. I’m innocent. This deal is not a good one for me… it is a great deal for the district attorney.
‘The second most difficult thing I ever did in my life was to sit through that trial and listen to lies, perjury, fake evidence, made-up evidence, withheld evidence, unconstitutional searches so many times, I wanted to jump up and scream, “Liar! This is not right”.’
Speaking of the HBO drama on the case staring Colin Firth as Peterson, left, where he is played by Michael Stuhlbarg, Rudolf said he was left ‘disappointed’ by the show.