Beyond Reasonable Doubt is a 16-episode podcast series from the BBC about the Kathleen Peterson case. I went looking for it because I found The Staircase so unsatisfying, and several people on true-crime forums recommended it as a less biased alternative.
It’s more professional and less biased for sure, because the host Chris Matthews and his team put in a lot of effort to speak to a variety of people in addition to Michael Peterson and his lawyer. Some of Kathleen’s family are interviewed, as well as then-District Attorney Jim Harding (now a judge), Judge Hudson and some jury members. Journalists and authors who covered the news of the case also contributed. Mike Peterson’s friend and neighbor Larry Pollard gets to explain his owl theory, and although Matthews doesn’t buy it he’s very respectful of Pollard. There are also some segments with questions from listeners.
My favourite episode was number 13, A Sister’s Story, because about half of it is Candace (Kathleen’s sister) sharing stories of what kind of person Kathleen was. Every time she spoke of Kathleen’s life her voice brightened and it was lovely to hear. I wish more true crime stories included this kind of thing.
Of course, Mike Peterson gets an unedited episode to himself too. Matthews invites him to rebut any details he disagreed with in previous episodes. I found him unconvincing since his answer to most questions was for listeners to check the trial transcript, which isn’t publicly available. And others he answered with irrelevant details before quickly changing the subject. I bet his lawyers weren’t happy he did the interview! But the man does love an audience.
As with any podcast adapted from a radio show, there are frequent station identification bits and long intro/outro sections. I learned to hit the skip-forward button for these as I don’t have a lot of listening time. But they weren’t annoying or intrusive, just the usual padding that commercial products do.
If you’re a true crime fan or want to know the complicated history of the trial through to the Alford plea, Beyond Reasonable Doubt is an excellent choice.