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Michael Peterson talks to NBC’s ‘Dateline’ for ‘Down the Back Staircase’ episode

Michael Peterson has given NBC’s “Dateline” his first network interview since his February manslaughter plea deal in connection with the 2001 death of his wife, Kathleen. It will air Friday night.

Peterson was interviewed by Dennis Murphy, telling Murphy that the plea deal was “the most difficult decision I ever made in my life. ... And I’m talking, you know, joining the Marines, anything I did in my life, this was the most difficult decision I made. And I did it because the second most difficult thing I ever did in my life was to live through that trial and listen to all of those lies and perjuries, the nonsense.”

Peterson’s trial was the subject of an award-winning French documentary “The Staircase,” which is currently being spoofed by the NBC sitcom “Trial & Error.”

Murphy also talks to Kathleen Peterson’s sister, Candace Zamparini, who has been outspoken about her belief in Peterson’s guilt: “It was very cathartic to say, ahh, this is what I fought for. … We weren’t quitting until we heard the word guilty. We thought we were going to hear it from another 12 jurors but we got to hear Michael say guilty.”

Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder in 2003 after Kathleen was found dead at the bottom of a staircase in their Durham home. (A family friend was also found dead earlier at the bottom of a staircase in Germany. And her body also was discovered by Michael Peterson.)

Peterson was in prison for eight years before his conviction was overturned, because of improprieties at the State Bureau of Investigation. Before Peterson’s new trial was set to begin, he entered an Alford plea, allowing him to plead guilty to manslaughter while maintaining his innocence.

The two-hour episode of “Dateline,” titled “Down the Back Staircase,” also features interviews with Peterson’s daughters Martha and Margaret Ratliff, his brother Bill Peterson, Durham detective Art Holland, former assistant district attorney Freda Black, Peterson’s defense attorney David Rudolf and Kathleen’s daughter Caitlin Atwater.

The episode airs at 9 p.m. Friday on NBC.

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