By John P. Gallo, Marion County Public Defender Agency
Recently, WBEZ Chicago launched the third season of Serial, a podcast from the creative team behind This American Life. The first season of Serial was a massive hit and set the template for the “true crime” sensation leading to shows like "Making a Murderer," podcasts like Dirty John and even hilarious satires like "American Vandal." These shows examine one extraordinary case in great detail, with plenty of exciting twists and turns.
Season three of Serial is both more and less ambitious than the first. Season one looked at one case and season three examines the entire criminal justice system. Host Sarah Koenig and reporter Emmanuel Dzotsi spent a year in and around the criminal courts of Cleveland, OH. Their goal is to better understand the criminal justice system by examining ordinary cases. In the first two episodes, the Serial team examines a case where a bar fight turns into a battery on an officer charge and sentencing practices of one particular judge. It’s intimate and not nearly as twisty and turny as its predecessor or progeny.
What’s remarkable is how Koenig can take small cases and use them to explain subtle nuances of the system. It’s incredibly lifelike—a local attorney told me that he had “never heard a more realistic portrayal of the criminal justice system.” Practitioners may not be surprised by what they hear since we do this every day. But the new season of Serial is a valuable tool for non-lawyers to understand our jobs—from the mundane to the extraordinary.
You can listen to all three seasons of Serial here.
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