Freda Black, a prosecutor featured on Netflix's 'The Staircase', found dead in her home
Wil Glenn, a spokesperson for the Durham police, said that the 57-year-old prosecutor's death did not appear to be suspicious
Freda Black, one of the prosecutors from the famous 2001 North Carolina murder case involving novelist Michael Peterson, passed away in her home over the past weekend. Black had been featured in the Netflix documentary series 'The Staircase', that profiled the case. She was found dead on July 29 morning in her home in North Carolina. Wil Glenn, a spokesperson for the Durham police, said that the 57-year-old prosecutor's death did not appear to be suspicious and that the body was sent to the medical examiner for further investigation.
Black was the one who gave closing arguments in the 2003 trial that ended Peterson being convicted of murdering his wife, Kathleen.
A judge had ordered a new trial later on and Peterson entered a special plea in 2017 where he acknowledged that the prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him of manslaughter charges. 74-year-old Peterson had attributed the documentary that was made, and which was edited by his lover of 15 years, for the conviction which got overturned, the Daily Mail reported.
Black, who was the mother of two daughters, was found at around 3:30 pm on July 29 after a family member called the authorities and said they could not reach her.
After the infamous trial came to a close, Black has run two campaigns for district attorney in 2006 and 2008. She ended up losing both the campaigns. Black ran, unsuccessfully, for a spot in the Durham district court bench in 2010.
The case that made her a household name has been receiving a lot of attention after Netflix distributed new episodes of the documentary that had originally been aired more than 10 years ago. Directed by the much-heralded Jean-Xavier de Lestrade - who won an Oscar for his 2001 crime documentary 'Murder on a Sunday Morning' - the original 2004 series (Soupçons) follows the story of crime novelist Michael Peterson, who was accused of murdering his wife Kathleen Peterson in December 2001 after he called to report her death to the police. The show derives its name from the fact that she was found lying in a pool of blood at the bottom of the staircase in their North Carolina home.
Following his indictment, Lestrade and his team were granted unprecedented access to Peterson and his defense team as they worked to prove his innocence. Camera crews were given access to the accused's extended family, the defense attorneys, and the courtroom, filming testimonies, the trial, and even interviews with the jury after Peterson's conviction, accruing over 600 hours of footage in the process. The end product is a gripping courtroom thriller which offers an engrossing look at the contemporary American justice system.
Peterson's guilt has always been a point of contention. Investigators theorized that the murder weapon was a fireplace poker which was discovered missing from the house, though an outlandish theory by a county attorney in 2009 suggested that she had been the victim of an owl attack. At various points, the case crossed over to the realm of the bizarre and captured the nation's attention.
The 2004 run had wrapped up with the jury convicting Peterson of his wife's murder and a life sentence, with a two-hour follow-up titled 'Last Chance' - which covered the novelist's release from jail and pending retrial - premiering at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam in 2012.
'The Staircase' makes for interesting viewing as a consequence of the nature of the case that it depicts, and of course, Lestrade's thoroughness and meticulousness. To this day, the case is a contentious one and Peterson's guilt is debatable.
The novelist wrote the last chapter to the long running saga in February 2017 by entering an Alford plea to a charge of voluntary manslaughter. Because the Alford plea allows for the defendant to maintain his or her innocence while acknowledging that the prosecutors have enough evidence for a conviction, there are those who defend him, stating that he had only done so to utilize his plea deal and walk home. Whatever side you take, the story is an engrossing one.