The wildly popular podcast “Serial” has sparked a host of conversations on a wide range of topics on nearly every social media platform. And the state of our criminal justice system is at the top of the list. Each of the separate elements that constitute the whole of the criminal justice system is addressed by the series. These elements include procedures for the collection of evidence, jury selection, the accuracy of eyewitness testimony, the level of competence of attorneys, and the role of human relationships in determining motive.
“Serial” has increased the public’s interest, and participation in the criminal justice system. People with no personal experience with the justice system are now, perhaps for the first time, examining the many ways in which it affects their own lives, if only indirectly. The recent public protests surrounding investigations into police misconduct only served to increase its popularity. Many felt that these investigations were not nearly thorough enough. It has even spawned more applicants for University of Florida criminology degrees online, showing the public interest is growing in this messy part of government.
Hunger For Justice
The testimony of Jay, the key witness in the state’s case against Adnan Syed, revealed that fear of the police was, at least in part, what motivated his silence, and consequent participation in the crime. This series partially satisfied the public’s current hunger for truth and justice by thoroughly investigating a criminal case from every possible angle.
The Power of Podcasts
Another of the most discussed topics is the potential power of pod-casting to create meaningful dialogue leading to positive social change. There is even a complete web series dedicated to examination of the role of historical narrative in creating a collective perception of social reality. After “Serial” demonstrated the potential power of pod-casting to reach millions of people, another podcast called “Coptalk” was released through the EarWolf Podcast Network in December. This podcast features a candid interview by comedian W. Kamau Bell with retired police officer Anthony Escbar on the subject of policing within the criminal justice system.
Much of the social dialogue surrounding “Serial” has consisted of people playing amateur sleuth and offering their considered opinions regarding the relevance of new evidence presented each episode. Though this dialogue has served as motivation for police forces to open up channels for meaningful dialogue with the public as well. There has been an increase in the number of police blogs and podcasts that encourage interaction with the public by providing forums in which people can ask questions or present concerns.
With time we may be able to see more influences that have come out of this podcast and what changes are being brought about by the discussions that have come out of the series.
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance blogger and recent graduate of the University of New Mexico. She now lives in Los Lunas where she writes and researches when she’s not outside running, hiking and biking. Contact Brooke on LinkedIn.