By Nadia Urbina, Sept. 21, 2021
It’s only on Tuesdays that I don’t listen to music as I drive back to my house from campus. Each Tuesday as soon as I get into my hot car, I open the Spotify app as it instantly connects to my car’s Bluetooth. I can see the notification saying a new episode from my favorite true crime podcast is available. I fasten my seat belt and set off to the freeway as I mouth out the words to the intro, “Hi crime junkies, I’m your host Ashley Flowers…and I’m Brit,” and then I’m instantly overcome with a rush of excitement as I hear what this week’s story brings.
The thousands of true crime podcasts found on audio streaming services make it hard not to fall into a rabbit hole of a true crime obsession. Whenever I share that my pastime involves listening to murder investigations, most people don’t understand it.
Isn’t it exploiting a person’s murder?
The serious issues at play in these cases humanizes the people in the story and I no longer think of the case as a means of entertainment but now I see it as a fountain of news that heightens my awareness to the unfairness of the judicial system where it is all too easy for an innocent person to be sentenced in a court with little to no solid evidence.
To some extent, I admit, I’ve become so used to hearing gruesome deaths that it hardly bothers me anymore. It’s only when a case remains unsolved or when an accused murderer has circumstantial evidence against them, yet the justice system still finds them guilty that cases tend to stick with me. Prior to listening to these podcasts, I had the idea that the justice system was advanced enough to recognize the racism and bigotry within its system.
It weighs on my mind hearing a family interviewed about not knowing who their loved one’s murderer is. It piques my interest when the odds are stacked against the accused killer because of their race, religion or gender.
According to the Innocence Project, since 1973, 53% of death penalty exonerees are Black. It angers me to know how the justice system could be so wrong.
The murder of Hae Min Lee covered in the podcast “Serial”, hosted by journalist Sarah Koenig, was the first investigation that left me astonished because of its outcome. “Serial’s” 12 episodes focus on Lee’s 17-year-old boyfriend and accused killer Adnan Syed and the evidence against him that deals with police negligence, racial bias and errors made by Syed’s attorney.
Koenig discusses the state’s theory about Lee’s murder and the narrow-mindedness police had toward Syed. The evidence presented in the podcast painted a bigger picture that changed the way I looked at the conclusions made by investigators and prosecutors.
Another case that challenged my ideas was NBC’s “Dateline” podcast, which covers the disappearance of Carla Yellowbird. The podcast examines the issues Indigenous women face in this country along with covering Yellowbird’s disappearance.
Before this case, I believed that every missing person’s report was handled with due diligence and the utmost importance regardless of race or gender.
“Dateline” interviewed her aunt, Lissa Yellowbird, who shared the neglect by law enforcement with cases involving Indigenous women. She shared that her niece’s disappearance isn’t a rare occurrence in her community. According to the National Institute of Justice, four out of five Indigenous women have suffered physical, sexual or phycological violence.
The podcasts “Serial,” “Crime Junkie,” “My Favorite Murder,” “Dateline” and “Criminal” offer a narrative that voices injustices found in murder cases and the legal system. These podcasts managed to sway my preconceptions of the U.S. justice system and do more than make me forget about my commute home.
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