Worst Fears, Streaming (‘The Staircase’)

posted in: Day In The Life 11
Right (or wrong) this way … Image: Wikipedia.



The caption under this photo in Wikipedia reads: “A sign indicating where jurors are to conjugate inside Hillsborough County Superior Courthouse in Nashua, New Hampshire.”

Wait a second.

I looked up the word “conjugate” because that’s … wrong. It’s adorable, but it’s wrong. It should be “jurors congregate.” Right?

Then I thought, well, maybe jurors do conjugate. The “j” and the “u” are the same in both words, right? I did some poking around and I didn’t find anything in a definition for “conjugate” that really made sense in the context of the caption. But I could be wrong. After all, I’ve not studied law; I don’t know what jurors do. I’ve not served on a jury. I took an advanced vocab class one summer during undergrad and learned a lot of Latin roots and suffixes and things, but there’s a lot I don’t know about words. Jurors conjugate. Why not?

It seems like a small thing, getting words mixed up. The person who did the captioning got it wrong, I’m pretty sure, but I’m not sure beyond a reasonable doubt. I’m glad I don’t have to stake my life on being right or the caption writer being wrong.

I’m thinking in this way because I’ve been watching some damnable series on Netflix called “The Staircase.” Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s a documentary in 13 episodes. The filmmakers tracked — exhaustively, relentlessly, remarkably — a murder case which took place over several years in the early 2000s. I have no recollection of this case, but it was a big story in mainstream media, as the series shows. I won’t tell you everything that happens because I haven’t seen the last four episodes and I can’t bear to go through it all. Just know that the story is painful, sad, tedious, shocking, depressing, and discomfiting in the extreme.

Man, I ain’t got time to binge watch anything but my email box, and here this show goes and hooks me! I was going to take a walk tonight, but no way. I had to watch, and now I’m scared of being sucked into a murder case. A real one. I haven’t killed anyone. I don’t plan to. I would hope no one is out to kill me. But “The Staircase” shows these things can happen to anyone! We’re all just one Kafkaesque scenario away from a different, bad world.

The trouble with watching TV like this is twofold: You can’t look. And you can’t look away.

11 Responses

  1. Deb
    | Reply

    Interesting Mary as I had the same feeling reading your post. I got the heebie jeebies at the word discomfiting and thought surely that’s not right it must be meant to say discomforting (as we would spell in Australia). Like you I did a search and seems that there is room for both spellings and they each have same meaning. My jury is still out on conjugate.

  2. Dayna from Wisconsin
    | Reply

    The Stairway is next in line on Netflix soon as I finish what I am watching.

  3. cindy
    | Reply

    Oh Mary, I cannot wait to binge watch “The Staircase” as that happened in my state where it was BIG news.
    And when you are done with that one, check out “Evil Genius” on Netflix. Another crime documentary excellently done.

    I am with you – conjugate just doesn’t look right…..

  4. Pam Williams
    | Reply

    There was a series called “Life” starring Damian Lewis and Sarah Shahei on NBC which featured superb acting and brillant writing. Damian Lewis is from the UK and was able to perfect an American accent. “Life” was interrupted by the writer’s strike, returned for a second season and was cancelled The network said that the audience declined, citing that as a reason for the cancellation. Bless my heart!

    • Melanie
      | Reply

      Pam – I LOVE Damian Lewis!! And that series “Life” was so good. Damian has also been in “Homeland” and is currently starring in “Billions”. Billions is SO GOOD. He’s SO GOOD. Each role depicts Americans and he nails the accent in all of them. Happy to come across someone else who knows about “Life”.

  5. Melanie
    | Reply

    Yeah, no….I hate it when people say that but there you go. I binge-watched “the Staircase” and, at about episode 10, had to Google it to find out the result. I just could not wait any longer to find out what happened. Then I could watch the remaining episodes in a relaxed manner and see how he got where he finally ended up. It was really interesting seeing all the procedural aspects of defense and prosecution. I felt the last three episodes could have been reduced to one. It got a little tedious, but maybe that was because I already knew the result. I also don’t believe “conjugate” is being used properly in the Wikipedia entry. I think Wikipedia can be misleading as *anyone* can enter or change content. Thanks for keeping us thinking about words.

  6. atomic momma
    | Reply

    The Staircase happened in my backyard – Durham, NC.

    It’s just the saddest story in addition to being bizarre on so many levels. I can’t watch it – it feels to voyeuristic to me. That Mike Peterson copped a plea – Alford plea – is just excruciating in it’s lack of honor for Kathleen Peterson. Her daughter is the only one I’d be interesting in hearing about this story. I encourage anyone to look up Caitlin

    There was apparently a spoof comedy based on this case – John Litgow played the defendant.

    It’s just so unbearably sad on so many levels. I’m not writing this to make anyone feel guilty for watching – there’s a reason why this family tragedy is so compelling and keeps getting airtime. It was a huge case in its time.

    For anyone who wants to learn more here’s a great article link:


    May God Bless Kathleen and especially Caitlin Atwater, who is now a mom to twin daughters and a living example of how to conduct yourself grace and beauty and dignity in the face of tragedy.

    • atomic momma
      | Reply

      Grammar correction please:

      It’s just the saddest story in addition to being bizarre on so many levels. I can’t watch it – it feels TOO voyeuristic to me.

  7. Tracy
    | Reply

    I have watched both Evil Genius and The Staircase. They are both very compelling. I had no problem believing that the woman in Evil Genius was guilty but as for The Staircase: I watched the whole thing and I wavered back and forth. Now that it is over I still am not sure if he is guilty or not!

  8. Atomic momma
    | Reply

    He’s guilty. Read up on him. Had another woman connected to him die under exact circumstances.

    Because Lightening always strikes twice in the same place.

  9. Pam
    | Reply

    I binge watched the Staircase this past weekend while dog sitting for my mother. I’m a huge fan of true crime documentaries and documentaries in general (Ken Burns, I’m looking at you). I was fairly sickened by the repeated failures in the judicial process and am disappointed in the outcome. I understand wanting it to all just be over and taking the Alford plea but I truly wish he would have gone for another trial – I believe he would have been exonerated. Horribly sad all the way around.

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