Podcasts are used to discuss all sorts of things, whether it’s the real estate market, fandoms, moviemaking, and even as a comedy platform.
But there are other sub-genres of podcasting that take more interesting approaches with their content. Some of the most mind-trapping and binge-worthy of all podcasts are about wrongful convictions.
In fact, this sub-genre of podcasts is so popular that there are almost too many separate shows to count. Sifting through all those podcasts might take too much time, so we’ve detailed the best podcasts about wrongful convictions.
There are more than what we showed below. Each of these shows should be a good introductory podcast so you can dive deeper into the sub-genre.
Why Do People Make Podcasts About Wrongful Convictions?
At their core, podcasts about wrongful convictions are about exposing the truth and bringing the facts to the public. When it comes to the American justice system (about which most wrongful conviction podcasts are based), there’s often an obfuscation of the facts. This leads many people in the public to wonder whether they ever got the real story about a case.
However, many cases are eventually fleshed out with extra details and new information that comes to light as the years pass.
It’s why there are occasional public turns-of-opinion, where groups begin to wonder if certain individuals in criminal cases were mistreated, wrongly prosecuted, and wrongfully convicted.
This doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Many who make wrongful conviction podcasts or true crime podcasts had someone in their family directly affected by these types of events.
On the other hand, many other wrongful conviction podcasts are made by true crime or criminal justice enthusiasts.
These aren’t “fans” in the traditional sense. Out of either a sense of morbid fascination or moral initiative, they take it upon themselves to produce high-quality podcasts that bring the flaws of the criminal justice system to light.
Ultimately, these podcasts aim to make enough of a splash that they can turn public opinion against a wrongful conviction or at least inspire an appeal. They aren’t always successful, but they are almost always entertaining to listen to.
Why Listen to a Wrongful Conviction Podcast?
Speaking of which, most people listen to these podcasts for the above reason: entertainment.
The best wrongful conviction podcasts are made with excellent production value and quality hosts who know how to explain the story both informatively and entertainingly. They’ll also often have guests on the podcast; if they’re lucky, they can get someone who is close to the original case they’re discussing.
Others may listen to these podcasts because they, too, have been affected by a wrongful conviction, either for themselves or for someone in their family.
It may help them find relief to hear similar stories about their terrible circumstances, or give them ideas about how to fight back against a wrongful conviction.
Still, more people like to listen to these podcasts for the historical perspective they offer, particularly in relation to criminal justice in the U.S.
Whatever the reason, listening to wrongful conviction podcasts is often gripping and time-consuming. As such, many are turning to them because of the ample free time they’re now enjoying due to quarantine caused by COVID-19.
Have Wrongful Conviction Podcasts Ever Led to Success?
It’s tough to say whether wrongful conviction podcasts have directly led to those wrongfully incriminated being released from prison or otherwise receiving justice.
The truth is that the majority of people who are wrongfully convicted never see freedom, at least until their sentence is carried out. This does mean that a majority of wrongful conviction podcasts are typically sad stories that don’t necessarily indwell for the victim or main “character.”
Still, that doesn’t mean that wrongful conviction podcasts aren’t worth your time. They can teach everyone a great deal about the American justice system and its notable flaws, particularly in an era when everyone can use a smartphone and the Internet to spread the word about things going badly. Being informed and helping to champion causes like this is one of the best ways to spend your podcast time.
In essence, these podcasts are still valuable in both the social and entertaining sense.
Just because they haven’t directly led to someone being released from prison doesn’t mean that they never will.
Additionally, many of these podcasts and their dedicated listeners form networks or support groups for those who are wrongly convicted.
This may give wrongfully convicted prisoners the strength to continue fighting the good fight and championing their own innocence.
Top Wrongful Conviction Podcasts
Wrongful Conviction is perhaps the most aptly named podcast series for this collection.
The host is Jason Flom. He’s an entrepreneur and a social justice activist. He’s a member of the boards of numerous criminal justice organizations, specifically those calling for reform.
Each episode dives into a single wrongful conviction case, making it easy to absorb the podcast series and bite-size increments. There are nine seasons available so far, so there’s plenty of content to keep your interest for the foreseeable future.
This episode is one of the better ones in terms of the sheer outrage it’s likely to cause in the listener.
It focuses on five Chicago teens who were accused and then wrongfully convicted for both raping and murdering their classmates.
It’s an example of one of the infamous 1990s cases where racist profiling served to incriminate many young black men. The episode dives deep into:
- historical motivations for the events described
- possible police errors
- stories of the accused
All in all, it’s a solid episode with an engaging beginning, middle, and end.
This episode is especially pertinent considering the public opinion trials and court cases that occur every day with the advent of the Internet.
This case dives into the story of Daniel Holtzclaw, an Oklahoma City police officer accused of forcing a woman he pulled over to perform oral sodomy. The episode dives deep into:
- how the media arguably caused things to spiral out of control
- inspired many apparent victims to “testify” against Holtzclaw
- what led to his arrest and conviction by public pressure
This episode doesn’t have a happy ending.
Truth and Justice with Bob Ruff
This fascinating podcast is a crowdsourced piece of content hosted by the titular Bob Ruff. It’s unique among other podcast series in that every season has a new case rather than every episode. This results in long-form storytelling that those in the mood for a more lengthy investigation will appreciate. The series is currently in its seventh season. It also constantly calls on the crowd for investigative help, making it one of the more interactive wrongful conviction podcasts out there.
This is the most recent case that Truth and Justice have tackled.
It tells the in-depth story of three teenagers who were arrested and convicted of a terrible crime: the murder of three eight-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arizona.
The series has a happy ending in that the three teenagers were ultimately released. But it dives deeper into:
- who could’ve possibly killed the boys
- why the teenagers were accused and wrongfully convicted in the first place
It’s gripping through and through, and we’d recommend it to everyone.
This investigative podcast series checks out wrongful convictions within the U.S. criminal justice system. It has three hosts: Rabia Chaudry, Colin Miller, and Susan Simpson.
Each season looks at a single case and focuses on wrongful convictions primarily from the criminal justice perspective rather than from a civilian investigator’s perspective.
As such, those who have some legal experience or who tend to enjoy John Grisham novels will probably really enjoy diving deep into each case covered.
This is the beginning of the most recent case that Undisclosed has tackled. Within this episode, you’ll listen to a gripping tale of a Ukrainian nuclear scientist, his wife, and of their murder. The episode – and the rest of the season – focuses on how unlikely it is that authorities could manage to find a suspect on the same day of the murders and why this led to a wrongful conviction.
This podcast deals with a relatively recent case that occurred in 2015. It isn’t about full wrongful conviction, unfortunately, but only because Mr. Davis, Jr. was shot and killed by Baltimore police rather than being arrested. Still, it’s a very interesting series because of how it exposes certain weaknesses in the American criminal justice system today. It certainly has lots of dark subject matter, but we’d challenge anyone to remain steadfast in their beliefs or support of the system after hearing these stories.
Conviction is hosted/told by both Detective Manuel Gomez and reporter Saki Knafo. They investigate various wrongful conviction cases across the country. The first series was relatively by-the-book for this genre. The second season kicks things up a notch and is currently exploring new territory in this genre. This is why we’ve recommended it.
This is the first episode of the above-mentioned second series. You’ll dive into a particularly bizarre tale where a 10-year-old boy accuses his own father of being the leader of a satanic cult. It is especially interesting because it dives into the social and political panic that had gripped the American people in the 1980s. As such, the story is a robust blend of:
- interesting but dark American history
- social injustice
- sociology, and how both factors may influence one another
This podcast is from Dateline NBC of To Catch a Predator fame and hosted by Dan Slepian. He’s one of NBC’s producers, as you follow the story of Richard Rosario.
Rosario was accused of murder despite having 13 alibi witnesses who claimed he was in Florida at the time of the New York City crime.
The podcast series is updated in relatively real-time. Slepian performs his own investigation of the facts and tries to bring the truth to light. It’s an enjoyable series largely because it’s happening in real-time. And, also because of the sheer wrongness of the conviction in the first place: don’t you want to know if things get better?
This introductory episode gets things rolling as Slepian heads to speak with Rosario in prison and then locates the scene of the crime in the Bronx. Slepian reviews much of the case information for the audience, but also provides a few main thoughts and counterpoints to kick things off.
Sins of Detroit
This podcast deals with one of the more recent examples of law enforcement gone wrong. Detroit news crime reporter George Hunter hosts the show, and he looks at wrongful convictions that began at the Detroit Police Department. It’s a new series, so we’re recommending it both so that it grows and in case you want to follow every along with every episode as the story develops.
This is about how the witnesses used in various Detroit crime cases can now be called unreliable or even forced to testify.
In fact, it dives deep into the history of the Detroit Police Department and its federal oversight from the U.S. Department of Justice. It sheds a lot of light on the apparent police practice of rounding up supposed witnesses and “leaning” on them to produce the desired results.
Each of these podcasts is well worth a listen, so we’d recommend you take a little time for each of them if you’re stuck inside like most of us. Even if you don’t get to them this week, make a note and track them down later; there are few ways to get gripping entertainment and historical perspective as authentic as the stories related to these wrongful conviction podcasts.