Lawyer from Netflix’s The Staircase backs Scotland’s ‘not proven’ verdict

US lawyer David Rudolf
US lawyer David Rudolf
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A US lawyer who featured in a Netflix real crime series has spoken out in support of Scotland’s ‘not proven’ legal verdict.

David Rudolf, who appears in hit Netflix series ‘The Staircase’, has revealed that he is interested in Scotland’s three-verdict system and would have welcomed it as an option in the now famous documentary case where he defended Michael Paterson, an author who was convicted of murdering his wife Kathleen in 2003.

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His wife was discovered dead in a pool of blood at the bottom of the staircase in the mansion she shared with Peterson in North Carolina. The dramatic trial and the fallout was revealed in the Netflix show earlier this year.

Earlier this month, a rape victim called for Scotland to get rid of the “not proven” verdict in criminal courts. Her attacker received a not proven verdict by a jury in a criminal trial - but was branded a rapist by a sheriff in a civil case and ordered to pay £80,000 in damages.

Mr Rudolf, who is in Scotland for a speaking tour, told the BBC about his perspective on the not proven verdict.

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He said: “I think the jurors didn’t want to say not guilty because there’s a sort of implication that Michael would get a clean bill of health,” he says.

“It’s very difficult to establish innocence - it’s hard to prove a negative.

“If a jury in the Michael Peterson case had the option of guilty or not proven they would have voted not proven.”

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Unlike most other legal systems in the world, including the United States, Scotland has three possible verdicts in criminal cases - guilty, not guilty and not proven. A not proven verdict is exactly the same as not guilty in that the accused is acquitted and free to leave the court.