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Michael Peterson's real-life attorney calls HBO series' big twist 'completely unfair'

Theoden Janes, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Entertainment News

As seen on TV: In a meeting with the Peterson defense team before the blow-up between the children, Rudolf explains that they’re ready to present their closing argument when Michael blurts out that he wants to testify. He says he wants to let the jury know how much he loves Kathleen. Rudolf urges him not to take the stand.

In the next scene, Clayton is in the garage working on an old car when he finds the blow poke, which the prosecution believed Michael had used as the murder weapon and then made disappear. (The blow poke theory would eventually be ruled out.)

Then, in the scene in which he breaks up the fight between his children, Michael declares that he will indeed be testifying after all. But when Rudolf gets him alone in the next scene, he pleads his case again, explaining how Michael’s credibility with the jury will suffer when the prosecution brings up a past lie he told about his military record, and that “I can get the blow poke in without putting you ... on the stand, and your case won’t suffer for it.” Michael ultimately relents.

The real Rudolf’s reaction: True. “I did discourage Michael from testifying. I think it would have been bad for him, for various reasons. I didn’t think we needed it. Once we found the blow poke, I just didn’t think we needed it anymore.”

What a murder might have looked like

As seen on TV: The filmmakers — who in Episode 2 imagined how Kathleen (Toni Collette) might have died in a fall — imagine how she might have died by murder. After she finds evidence of infidelity on a computer, an argument ensues. He tries to walk away from it, but she follows him up the staircase and continues shouting at him. In a fit of rage, Michael pushes her backwards down the staircase, then grabs her by the neck, and slams her head into a stair twice before she bleeds to death.

The real Rudolf’s reaction: “Well, it was interesting, because all of a sudden they didn’t have a blow poke. And it sort of confirmed (the defense’s forensic scientist) Henry Lee’s theory about how all the blood got on the (walls). And it was totally inconsistent with what Duane Deaver testified about — you know, blows ‘out in space.’ So, do I think that could happen? I guess. But there was no evidence that Kathleen ever saw anything on the computer. That was just their theory. And indeed, the computer forensic people said that she had never turned on the computer after she had that conversation with her coworker about 11 or so. They were all in the house; they went outside after that. The next time the computer got turned on was by the Durham police when they had control of the house.”

 

Assorted other thoughts from Rudolf

On not being asked by the filmmakers for his input: “Do they want me involved in the decisions about how to portray the family? No, and I really couldn’t have added much to that. (But) I said to them, ‘I’m happy to just talk technical, just so you get everything right.’ They basically said, ‘No, we don’t want to have anything to do with the defense side.’ And I guess the same thing was true on the prosecution side. ... I just think that’s short-sighted.”

On Michael Stuhlbarg’s portrayal of him: “I’d really like somebody else to tell me what they think. I don’t know. I don’t think he looks that much like me, for one thing. So that’s sort of hard to wrap my head around. If it was Al Pacino, I’d feel better. (Chuckling.) But Al’s a little bit old now. (Sighs.) You know, it’s hard for me to separate out the inaccuracies from how he’s playing me. ... It’s not his fault. He was given a script. So I’m not gonna fault him for saying it. But does it impact how I’m viewing how I’m being portrayed? Sure it does. Not that I’m insulted. It’s just not accurate.”

On seeing Kathleen brought to life by Toni Collette, and seeing an imagining of her marriage to Michael: “It fits with everything that I learned about her, and about their relationship. Everything you saw there was completely consistent with everything that I ever learned about her personality, how they got along, how they mingled with people, how they relaxed and celebrated. In some ways it was gratifying to see her brought to life. Because I only knew her as a victim. As a dead person. And it was nice to see her portrayed as a living human being who actually loved people and who was loved.”

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©2022 The Charlotte Observer. Visit at charlotteobserver.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
 

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