Case in point: True-crime podcasts that break the mould
It’s a case of heard mentality — true-crime stories thrive in the podcast format, but most of them sound the same. There’s a different case every episode, a quick recap of the facts, new research, an expert opinion, and incessant piano overlays between the talking. You’re lulled into the false belief that eventually, even the cold cases will be solved. For audio shows that look at the larger criminal justice system, and criminology, check these out.
Mortem: Cause of death? A women-led forensic team explains how they arrive at the answer, on this BBC show. They look at suspicious deaths and the tales corpses tell. How much can you salvage from a burned body? Are dental record matches the sure thing TV makes them out to be? What are the limitations of science? You’ll see that, as with lives, no two deaths are ever the same.
Ear Hustle: Produced by the inmates of the San Quentin state prison in America, it looks at what happens once the guilty verdict is delivered. Episodes explore different facets of everyday prison life: getting along with cellmates, how family dynamics change, fashion trends behind bars, dealing with ageing, what’s it like to be a trans inmate and, now, Covid-19 in prisons. There are light moment too. Episode 47 is a cook-off between four former prisoners.
Criminology: Created by Oxford’s Centre for Criminology, this is a series of recorded university lectures masquerading as a podcast. So really, it’s a seat in one of academia’s most hallowed halls. Speakers share new understandings of justice, penal culture and victimisation. One episode examines why gangsters don’t become jihadists. Another looks at democracy and the mafia.
Officer Involved: Three episodes, spillovers from the documentary of the same name, form this podcast. It looks at the experiences of police officers who have killed civilians. Recorded after a White policeman fatally shot an unarmed 18-year-old Black man in Ferguson, in one instalment, an anonymous officer reads out the letter he wrote to the man he killed. There’s compassion, bitterness, but tellingly, no regret.
Happy Face: What happens when dad is a serial killer? Melissa Moore, daughter of Keith Hunter Jesperson, uses the podcast almost like a diary, as she tries to make sense of how the man she remembers could also be the man who killed eight women.
Break In The Case: Written and produced by the New York City Police Department, it breaks down how a big-city police force operates beyond the screen clichés. Within a precinct, collaboration is easy, paperwork a necessary evil. Requisitions cause delays. But what happens when no one comes forward to claim the dead body of a little girl?
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